Gallery education

One of the many ways that artists can earn a living is working in a gallery education programme.

Gallery education programmes mostly – but not exclusively – run in publicly funded spaces and are a way for the gallery to engage with their audiences through talks, workshops, residencies or other public projects. Some galleries may confuse this kind of work with an artist’s socially engaged practice, so it is important to clarify if you are being commissioned as an artist or in more of a ‘service provider’ role to make sure you each understand what context the work is to be presented in, and what the expectations are in terms of audience participation, before you start work.

Artists working with young or disabled people are usually asked by their prospective employers to obtain a Disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The employer requests the check by getting an application form from DBS or an umbrella organisation, then passing it on to the applicant to fill it in and return to them along with documents proving their identity. The legislation does not allow the self-employed or individuals to apply for a DBS check themselves. If you are a self employed artist and have been asked to apply for a DBS check you will need to speak to the person who asked you to apply, as you will have to request the DBS check through them.

A DBS certificate only contains information from a DBS check on a certain date and for a particular purpose. Any information included will be accurate at the time the check was carried out. It is up to an employer to decide if and when a new check is needed, but artists can enrol in the DBS Update service for a small additional fee and avoid having to pay for additional checks.

Some well known London galleries for education workshops are Camden Arts Centre, Whitechapel Gallery, South London Gallery, and Tate.

Artists who work a lot in gallery education should consider joining engage, the national association of gallery education. Engage is a membership organisation that provides information, advice, resources, support and networking opportunities for artists working in gallery education, and their website has full information of what gallery education is and how to get work in gallery education.

Below is an interview with the Young People’s Co-ordinator at the South London Gallery:

Listen to audio from an Artquest talk with experienced artist-educator Cath Hawes, talking about working in various educational contexts:

Listen to artist Emma Smith talking about how her practice as an artist intersects with socially engaged practice commissions:

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