Student Profile: Tanya on Her Experience With the Burnaby Art Gallery

If you’ve visited Symplicity recently, you may have noticed the volunteer opportunity being offered by the Burnaby Art Gallery.  The gallery is looking for docents –   energetic individuals interested in leading school tours of the gallery exhibitions and assisting students with creating art in a warm, supportive environment.  The position certainly caught my eye, and so I’ve asked the gallery if we could profile a former or current volunteer.

Tanya Frank graduated with my BSc in Biology in June and is starting her Bachelors of Education at SFU this semester.  She has held two positions with the gallery and she kindly answered questions about volunteering for the organization and what interested volunteers might expect.

What did you do for the Burnaby Art Gallery and what skills did you develop through this position?

I’ve held two positions at the Burnaby Art Gallery. I started off as a docent during the school year, which involved taking school groups through the various exhibits at the gallery and helping them think about and respond to the works they were looking at. I had a lot of experience working one-on-one with kids, but working with larger groups of students required a whole other skill set. I learned to change the way that I used language to help keep them focused, as well as how to draw in kids that were less inclined to participate in the activities.

I also started volunteering for the Burnaby Art Gallery’s summer art camps. I love volunteering for these camps because they are structured, educational, and the kids come away having really accomplished something amazing. I learned how to encourage the students individually in their projects, but also how to keep a class moving throughout an activity. I also discovered how rewarding it is to watch the students’ ability and confidence grow throughout the week!

How would a typical “shift” look like for those who volunteer at the Burnaby Art Gallery?

A typical day volunteering at an art camp would start with a discussion with the instructor. The instructors set up and run the activities for the day, so it’s important to know what ideas they have laid out for the class. Because I am a Biology student with very little background in how to actually create the different styles of art, this was also a great time to clear up any questions about the materials or techniques needed for the project.

Once the students arrive, the art begins! The class may include a tour of the gallery for inspiration or a brief demo by the teacher. As a volunteer, you help wherever you can – answering questions, providing a different perspective, making sure that all the students feel comfortable and are having fun.

At the end of the day, it’s time to put away any unneeded materials and prep for the next day. It’s also a great chance to discuss any problems or questions that you have with your instructor; the ideas and advice they can give you are invaluable for your own growth as a volunteer.

What was the best part of volunteering for the organization?

I love volunteering for the Burnaby Art Gallery because the teachers really inspire kids to immerse themselves in art; this is especially true for the summer art camps because the kids spend the whole week working on ideas and developing really intriguing works of art. I love seeing them really get into their projects, as well as how proud they are when they can show their parents the amazing job that they have done. This is especially the case with kids that are shy or less confident about their skills; by the end of the week they have usually come out of their shell and have achieved some amazing pieces.

The Burnaby Art Gallery also has an amazing group of teachers, coordinators and support staff; you can tell that they genuinely love their jobs and love working with kids. They take the time to get to know their volunteers, and really go out of their way to make you feel welcome and a part of something big.

Were there any challenges that you’ve faced? How did you overcome them?

I wouldn’t exactly say that there were any challenges that I had to overcome, but volunteering at the Burnaby Art Gallery does provide a lot of opportunities to learn about how to work with children of all ages and all abilities. The instructors and coordinators are always ready to help you grow through situations that you may not have experienced before.

If there are SFU students who’d like to volunteer for the Burnaby Art Gallery, what advice (if any) would you offer?

If you’re interested in volunteering for the Burnaby Art Gallery, I would give them a call or drop by for a visit. It is a beautiful, welcoming place to volunteer, and the work is incredibly rewarding!

If you’d like to learn more about the programs that Burnaby Art Gallery provides, please visit their website.  To learn more about the details of the volunteer position available, head over to Symplicity. Applications for docents are accepted until September 24, 2010.

By Kelvin Claveria