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Engage is the lead advocacy and training network for gallery education.

We support arts educators, organisations and artists to work together with communities in dynamic, open exchanges that give everyone the opportunity to learn and benefit from the arts.

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EQUAL

Diversifying the gallery education workforce


Background

The EQUAL project was run as part of an initiative for EU member states to work together to develop common solutions to common European problems. This sharing of information, research and experiences aimed to create new ways to combat labour market discrimination and inequality in the workplace. 


engage was one of the partners under the Creative Renewal programme, promoted by Metier (now EQ) which was part of the larger EQUAL initiative. Creative Renewal aimed to work towards making the arts and entertainment sector more representative of society as a whole. Research and pilot projects were developed with/by and for people with disabilities; minority ethnic communities; and work was undertaken to tackle gender stereotypes. 


Vision

To promote a workforce which is diverse, accessible, and professional, including understanding of diversity issues in art practice and in employment issues and to ensure gallery educators are trained to embrace diversity in their own practice.


Basis

Gallery educators have a key role in promoting the broadest cultural access to galleries and the visual arts, as mediators and as employers and they also work directly with many millions of children, young people, adult visitors to galleries annually. Gallery educators are for many the prime interface with the visual arts, and so have a significant role in empowering the widest possible audience, and embracing issues of gender, cultural diversity, and disability. They are committed to building cultural access at all levels of society. Their role is not only themselves to engage visitors' interest and promote their visual literacy, but also to write policies and design programmes, and to employ and train artists and other part-time/freelance staff. 


However the role of gallery educator is relatively new with this change in approach starting off in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the input of Arts Council England and Local Authority support and proactive work by the independent gallery sector. This included a move towards the access and inclusion agenda from the 1980s onwards. Previously there was little effort to empower audiences to cultural access, with curators' prime responsibility being to art objects, to scholarship and to conservation. 


Gallery education has grown dramatically since then. It is estimated that c. 500 new practitioners - on either a part-time/freelance or full-time basis - currently enter this field every year. 


However, entry-level training and professional development are virtually non-existent. engage has been instrumental in developing training courses, however it is clear that this provision is totally inadequate in securing a diverse, well-trained workforce. 


In the absence of professional entry-level routes, entry to the workforce has been primarily through first degrees in Fine Art and Art History and related Humanities degrees. This means that the workforce is at present highly imbalanced in cultural diversity, disability, and gender.


Workplan

The workplan included the following elements which ranged from research to training and dissemination. 


  • Research into career paths and the make-up of the gallery education workforce
  • Focus in engage's annual conference 'Whose Diversity?' on issues relating to diversifying the workforce
  • Research into good practice in employment, recruitment and training
  • Improved career guidance for those wishing to enter the profession
  • Research into awareness of careers in galleries and career aspirations of school pupils and university students
  • Setting up pilot partnerships between schools and galleries to improve the sharing of information about careers in galleries and gallery education including careers talks and work placements
  • Sessions in engage's Making Connections seminar series on Diversity in the Workforce and information in the accompanying toolkits
  • A national seminar 'Embedding Diversity in Galleries' aimed at improving employment practices within galleries
  • The production of one or more publications and website pages to disseminate research findings and good practice.


This programme ended March 2005, however engage has continued to build on much of this work through its Diversity Strategy and Action Plan. 


Visit our diversity webpages to find out more about our more recent work in this area.



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