News Story

A young, blonde women stands smiling for the camera in front of a brick wall, she holds a Historic Gallery guide booklet

Volunteer Kira recounts what made her time at Watts Gallery so special for her.

Over the last 12 months, I have had the privilege of working amongst the artworks adorning the walls of Watts Gallery in my role as a volunteer steward. My many weekday afternoons at Watts, spent surrounded by symbolist oils and being towered over by Tennyson, were brimming with thoughtful conversations and quiet contemplation alike, and have been a great joy to me in a year of uncertainty.

Recently graduated, living back at home, and unsure as to what my next steps were going to be (beyond having a deep interest in art history and my heart set on a career in museums), I applied to be a steward at the gallery in the summer of 2021.

Since then, the rewards of this experience quickly made themselves known: from engaging in discussion with visitors about the Wattses’ life and work with a confidence I would not have thought possible on my first shift, to the string of breath-taking temporary exhibitions feeding my love of learning as I buried my nose in literature on artists I had never previously encountered. Not a shift went by without feeling more knowledgeable, more confident, or more inspired than I did before.

Volunteering at Watts Gallery not only provided me with somewhere to focus my passion for art history over the past year, but has also helped in clarifying my aspirations for my future career path. From September, I will be studying for a Master’s degree in Preventive Conservation with Northumbria University, inspired by my discussions and encounters with artwork conservation, collections care, and installation and de-installation of exhibitions whilst at Watts Gallery.

Above all else, stewarding at Watts Gallery has shown me what it means to work in a place you are proud of, with a team of kind, knowledgeable, and inspiring people, who are incredibly passionate about the work they do. Being a part of the group of volunteers and staff who keep the heart of George and Mary’s work beating has truly been something special