Curating during Covid-19: A volunteer art student’s experience curating accessible art

Closeup of L.1 (Mirage) by John Golding. Abstract painting in shades of yellow and blue.

Laura Rozamunda Allsopp-Huddle shares her experience volunteering with the University Art Collection during COVID-19.

Earlier this year, from January to April, I worked for the University of Reading’s Art Collection as a volunteer curatorial assistant. The placement focused on curating an exhibition for the Collection’s website, on British artist and art historian John Golding (1929-2012). Golding was born in Kent, but grew up in Mexico, and here was influenced by the figurative works of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco (1883- 1949). To explore Golding’s paintings and collages, on loan from The John Golding Artistic Trust, and read more about how Golding’s experiences shaped his art practice, click here to view this online exhibition.

L.1 (Mirage) by John Golding. Abstract painting in shades of yellow and blue.
John Golding, L.1 (Mirage), 1998-2000, acrylic on canvas. On loan from the John Golding Artistic Trust

As a student at the University, studying Art and English Literature, these months with the Art Collection proved a brilliant opportunity to learn more about the field of Museums and Curating, combining my love of art and writing. Alongside my research for Golding, I reformatted many of the labels for the most recent exhibition by Museums Partnership Reading, Rubens to Sickert: The Study of Drawing. Label writing is an administrative task but necessary for any exhibition and encourages succinct language and specificity.

Below is a figurative drawing submission I drew for the Rubens to Sickert exhibition, as part of the ‘Old Masters of the Future’ initiative, encouraging audience engagement and inspiring the artist in each of us to create their own figurative drawings, and to reflect the focus of the exhibition itself. Rubens to Sickert was held at the Sir John Madejski Art Gallery in Reading and can now be explored on the Art Collection’s website.

Old Masters of the Future submission. A man wearing a loin cloth only and holding a long spear
Laura Rozamunda, Life model posed with Roman Pilum spear, 2021, graphite on paper, 42 x 29cm

For many of us, the first half of this year was spent working from home, in lockdown. Unusual circumstances have not deterred ambition in our lives and work but encouraged it; we cultivated more creative ways of collaborating with others throughout this physical separation. Despite the closure of galleries, museums and other art institutions during the lockdown, the University Art Collection presented an opportunity to gain experience in the industry. Working with Dr Naomi Lebens; Curator, and Clare Plascow; Collections Officer, I could contribute to art and culture and its accessibility to the people who love it. I discovered, as I signed into zoom meetings each week with people who are passionate and knowledgeable in their work, that this was a career I really want to pursue. I would like to formally thank Dr Lebens and Ms Clare Plascow for this experience.

Therefore, I encourage those interested in a placement or volunteering position, presented by the Art Collection, to apply! And of course, visit the Art Collection if you haven’t already.

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