Saranjit Bansal studied BA Design for Digital Media and MA Arts and Museum Management at University of Salford and now works as External Exhibitions and Events Manager at Blank Media Collective.
How has your involvement with Student Social at Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum impacted upon your courses and career direction?
Whilst I was studying on the BA (HONS) for Design for Digital Media, I had the opportunity in my 2nd year to work with the Whitworth Art Gallery on a new event called The Student Social. Working at the gallery on this project has been a valuable insight and I realised that I wanted to work within a gallery or museum space for my final major project at university focussing on exhibition design and organising events. The Whitworth Art Gallery posed the perfect space in which to fulfil my creative desires. Whilst working there I realized that I would really like to have a career based in the museums and galleries sector, which led me to further to undertake MA Arts and Museum Management. During this course I carried on my volunteer work at the Whitworth Art Gallery and this also helped me to undergo a work placement at Salford Museum and Art Gallery. I worked there on a project that was closely linked to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympic games.
What aspects did you enjoy the most?
To be honest I really enjoyed everything, first of all to be able to work with great staff who have been an inspiration to me and all the students from different backgrounds and universities. But if I had to choose something it would be being there on the night and seeing the success of the project, seeing people enjoying themselves and the workshops, which basically means all the hard work of planning and organizing was definitely worth it.
What would you say to other students who might want to be involved?
Defiantly get involved! You get to work in a fun social environment with great staff who offer a lot of support. You get to work with all types of people from different backgrounds and to top it off you see your ideas/thoughts/designs come to life!
How can art galleries and museums engage and work with students and what would you like to see?
I think they should work alongside the tutors in different departments at universities to create more briefs and modules linked to gallery and museum work/experience. A lot of students aren’t really aware of what happens in an art gallery, so making them more aware of what’s there would be great. Like the Student Social events cater to the students’ needs with the live bands and entertainment, workshops, freebies and complimentary drinks- I wasn’t even aware until I started working on the student social that galleries did this.
Adding other elements to the exhibition such as workshops or digital aspects. For my MA Arts and Museum Management dissertation, I designed the concept for an augmented reality mobile phone app to be used within galleries and museums. As technology is growing at such a fast rate I think all galleries should keep up with the trends, not to take away from the exhibition, but to enhance the experience by adding fun new elements- basically creating more participation and interaction with the audience and the exhibitions with up to date technology.
What did you learn from co-curating Student Socials?
I learnt about what it would be to work within a dynamic gallery and developed professional skills. I also got to see how, and be part of organising events within an art institution, like designing workshops, finding performance acts, catering, working with different departments, health and safety and this also made me realise I would like to learn a lot more about being a curator and working with the collections department.
Do you think that collaborations between galleries and HE institutions can be reciprocal and mutually beneficial and insightful for both?
Definitely! Galleries and universities should defiantly work together as much as possible. Having modules/briefs catered for HE within gallery and museums would open up a lot more doors for students from all different courses and levels. There are so many different roles within art institutions, such as design, exhibitions, visitor services, collections, front of house, finance and so many more, that there are so many ways in which you could work within a gallery or museum. My background is from graphic design but working at the Whitworth Art Gallery let me use my skill base to my full extent, making me a lot more aware of other jobs I could apply for within these institutions that maybe I wasn’t aware of before. Gone are the days of boring quiet galleries and exhibitions -its all about participation, interaction, involving the audience, fun and creating a buzz!