Curating a gallery for the first time….

by Ellie Robson

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that I had a hand in curating the Young Norfolk Arts virtual gallery space for their online 2020 festival. Although creating a virtual gallery was a relatively new experience for everyone involved, I was entirely unfamiliar with the process. It was something I’d never imagined myself doing, but I ended up loving it!

Developing the exhibition was a task of two parts. Firstly, we had to gather submissions, created by the unbelievably talented young artists aged 11 – 25 in Norfolk. The theme of the exhibition, and the call we put out to artists, was entitled ‘no space, every place’ – something which the Collective felt captured the feeling of lockdown, but also left lots of room for creatives to play.

Due to my upbringing and the course of study I chose to pursue, I am used to the art of the language, and expression through literature. Once the submission deadline had passed, it was incredibly inspiring to have my mind opened to the ways in which the prompt was interpreted by physical artists through the form of photography, fashion, and other mediums that would never have occurred to me.

It was a privilege to get to see and spend time with all of the entries as individual offerings to the exhibition. They all brought something unique and thought provoking to the virtual table. However, I found my mind and creativity thrived when it came to the second part of developing the gallery. Considering the connections between pieces and how their messages could be amplified and complemented by other artists was like solving a jigsaw that could be completed in an endless number of ways, each one equally satisfying and brilliant.

Piecing everything together meant getting to spend a lot of super fun Zoom calls with the Collective, which were definitely a highlight of my lockdown, and an exciting way to get to bounce ideas around. We settled upon grouping the works into the categories of ‘angst’, ‘surreal’, and ‘hope’ – which involved lots of debates and trading of pieces! The Collective then began to collaborate with tech wizard Chris, who showed us just how customisable an online space can be. We could adapt the physicality of the space, the colours, textures, and placement of artworks. By the end of the process we had the works split into three extraordinary “rooms”, some of which had art on the ceiling!

Putting the gallery together was a great experience, and I learnt a lot from being part of the team who worked on it. Perhaps the most interesting part of the second phase was choosing to implement how the Collective perceived the entries as a way of presentation, but simultaneously not wanting to impede upon audience experience and inference by placing our own, overwhelming readings onto the gallery. I think that we did a pretty good job!

Take a look at the YNA Collective curated ‘no space, every place’ exhibition in our virtual gallery here.

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