An insight from a Student Arts Programmer at Arts SU
Written by Bea Taylor Searle, a current Student Arts Programmer with the Arts Programme Team
I started working officially for the Students’ Union Arts Programme Team as a Student Arts Programmer in September 2020 after several disruptions caused by Covid-19. Since then, I have organised three virtual events for the Xhibit Catalogue launch. I started writing this piece just before the final event was about to commence to be able to share the adrenaline rush you get just before the event you have programmed starts! With fluctuating questions of: Will the students like it? Will it be useful? How many people will actually participate? Now I can say that all of those questions can be answered positively and would like to give you some insight on applying to work for the Student Union and on the work I had to do in preparing these events.
What is the Students’ Union?
Legally every university in the UK has to have a union, and guess what? By being a UAL student, you are automatically a member! The Students’ Union helps run the many society and sports clubs that students have set up. Not only that, at Arts SU we curate events, set up exhibitions, sell your artwork, and give feedback and advice to support your professional development. When I joined UAL, I had no idea what the Students’ Union was, and to be honest I wasn’t very interested in knowing more. I hit a low during my studies and took an interest in the Students’ Union, and I wish I had known before what they provide for us. I joined a society (which I am now president of), got to meet new people from different colleges, and now have this great job. I honestly can’t think of any student that has something bad to say about the union, get involved as much as you can, three years fly by quickly.
What is Xhibit?
Before joining the union I had a rough idea of what Xhibit was, as I had previously applied with no success! Through working at the union, I learnt that Xhibit is a legacy project that was founded by two Chelsea College graduates Kit Hammonds and Angela Robinson in 1997. This was super encouraging; thinking that as we come out of university, we might be able to organise something that might become a legacy project. Each year we come together with industry professionals to select and celebrate this legacy, allowing emerging creatives to have a spotlight.
The catalogue and the events
I started working on Xhibit, specifically on the catalogue launch in a very weird time. The catalogue is one of the main elements of the programme, but in some respects is often overshadowed by the exhibition itself. Covid-19 has given an opportunity for the catalogue to have its own spotlight. I have very basic experience on organising physical events, so wasn’t quite sure about online events. I proposed three events to my line manager and she approved them all, which not only gave me a boost in confidence, but made me feel like part of a team, where my ideas are valued. I took my experience as a student and applied them to these online events for UAL students. This experience has taught me how to work in an office environment from home, and how many different teams need to be contacted for events. From contacting speakers, to asking for content for social media and advertising the event. Not all things come super smooth and for the last event I had some hiccups with speakers not replying to emails, and I was hanging hopeful (COVID-19 has inevitably made me more patient) until my line manager jumped in to help me. This last event showed how strong the UAL community can be when you are struggling, as previous Xhibit artists and our Sabbatical Officers all came for the rescue!
What I am excited about?
After these three events, I am even more excited about the new year to come. Especially as we might be able to have physical events (Covid-19 permitting). We are currently thinking about creating an Arts and Technology programme, which is something (by chance) my practice is concentrated on. Keep an eye on this space, and for any feedback or suggestions don’t hesitate to contact me or anyone in the student union!
*Since writing this piece Bea, our Student Arts Programmer at Arts SU, has gone on to develop a series of online events based on Art and Technology. All free for UAL studnets!
Internet as a Gallery Space - Internet as a Gallery Space (arts-su.com)
Ethics of Facial Recognition - Ethics of Facial Recognition (arts-su.com)
Consequential Thinking - Consequential Thinking (arts-su.com)
And of course, Bea has been continuing a lead role on this year’s Xhibit! More details still to come!