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Photo of a family workshop at Watts Gallery with a volunteer assisting

In late 2023, otherwise faced with an ominous and indeterminate ‘quiet’ period (for lack of a better term) after completing my postgraduate degree, I felt understandably motivated to get out of the house and get to know my local area better. Discovering the Watts Gallery and its contingent of brilliant staff and welcoming volunteers came as a bolt from the blue – had it really been around the corner the whole time?

As a student who specialised in literature and visual culture, I had crossed paths with George and Mary Watts in articles and class discussions. I knew about George Watts’ idiosyncratic colour mixing practices, and how his artisanal preferences flew in the face of the rise of industrially produced paints. I knew from personal experience that Windsor and Newton’s green paint is still lacklustre over a century later. However, it was something else to step away from textbooks and actually view these artworks in such a historic location.

What drew me to volunteer here was the way the wonderful Learning team makes heritage come alive through its creative programme. Half of my wardrobe already has paint stains on it, and with no sartorial qualms to get in the way, I was keen to get stuck in. From clay ornaments to printmaking, I have seen how powerfully art can stimulate children’s natural inquisitiveness. These workshops, I hope, will encourage a lifelong love of art. It’s messy. It’s brilliant.

Volunteering at the Watts Gallery has helped me to gain perspective on what a career in museums might offer. It has allowed me to start figuring out how I can balance my passion for art history and my firm belief that art should be accessible, not exclusive. I am deeply grateful for how welcome I have been made to feel as a younger person and an LGBTQ+ individual. Having such a positive experience to reflect on undoubtedly helped me to get my current internship in an archive, but wherever I end up working, I hope to continue to have time for stewarding, for powering through books in the lulls, for noisy workshops, and for having a little chat with visitors and other volunteers.

Portrait of a girl with short brown hair wearing a blue apron