Behind the Scenes at Southampton Celebrates

Arts Ambassador and final year BA Geography student Nicole Wong takes a behind the scenes look at curating Sampler, a programme by John Hansard Gallery and City Eye as part of Southampton Celebrates. 

In the weeks leading up to Southampton Celebrates and the opening of the city’s new arts venue Studio 144, I was fortunate enough to be a part of this project so significant to both the University and the city of Southampton. I have visited numerous art galleries around the globe, but have never had the opportunity to experience the behind the scenes of curating such an event. What’s even more exciting is that Sampler is directly connected with a brand new, city centre development which meant that I got to be one of the first people to promote and work within this space.

With any types of cultural exhibitions, as a visitor looking at a piece of art you might also be wondering just how an exhibition/installation arrives into the space. For example, how did Hetain Patel’s Ford Fiesta Transformer move itself into the second floor of the John Hansard Gallery, and how did it even arrive at the gallery in the first place?  It is easy to forget or underestimate the amount of effort that goes into putting an exhibition together. The steps taken however are crucial to the success of a gallery exhibition and have added to my appreciation of works of this scale.

Although I wasn’t hands on with curating the John Hansard Gallery, as an Arts Ambassador with Arts at University of Southampton I was involved in developing and delivering the campaign to advertise and promote the work of John Hansard Gallery, City Eye and Nuffield Southampton Theatres. Through this experience, I got to work with fellow student Art Ambassadors, strategically thinking about new ideas striving to increase the awareness of the Southampton Celebrates event and attract more university students to engage with the new cultural venues in their city.

The development of Studio 144 had always just been a constructed image in my mind. The weeks of preparation accompanied by flashing images on PowerPoint and the words printed on the programme rundowns had fabricated an imagination of Studio 144, something I knew so much about, however had never seen with my own eyes. It wasn’t until the final Monday leading up to the opening where I first stepped foot into the new John Hansard Gallery, and witnessed artist Rhona Byrne, the creator of Huddlehood, entering the premise with her suitcase filled with what I could guess as her hoods and Studio 144 became a reality.

The smell of wet paint, the loud noise of drilling and the constant movement of things, people and the transformation of the gallery space was an incredible experience. Trying to ingest all this on a Monday morning was boisterous, yet to me, it reflected the making of a masterpiece. However, the sound of activity became silence as I walked in to the different dimensions of the gallery. As the presence of nothingness in these spacious emporiums flooded me with satisfaction knowing that by the end of the week, this space that my body was occupying would be filled with installations that had been precisely calculated from the reciprocal conversation between artists and curators.

Southampton Celebrates took place on Friday 16 February 2018, celebrating the new homes of Nuffield Southampton Theatres, City Eye and John Hansard.  Sampler continues until Saturday 24 February with free admission to all events. 

Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton.

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3 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes at Southampton Celebrates”

  1. Wow… what a great event!
    The exhibitions were brilliant and I loved many of the performances.
    Will you do something similar next year?

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