Curating the Friends' exhibition

14 March 2014

Archive Team Volunteer, Becky Sexton, provides an insight into the forthcoming  Friends' exhibition (Wednesday 19 March - Saturday 29 March 2014).


This year the first Friend’s exhibition of 2014 will be curated by five of the RBSA Gallery’s very own Friends. Archive Team Volunteer, Becky Sexton, interviews Hazel Astling about her curatorial experience and the role of the Friends at the RBSA Gallery.

The Friend’s exhibition (19 March — 29 March 2014) aims to showcase a high standard of original and interesting work of a variety of mediums and styles; jewellery, ceramics, textiles, drawing, painting and printmaking are all welcome. One of the curators, Hazel, says it is not a case of standing out through size or vibrancy of colour: ‘even small quiet pictures can grab your attention.’ This is the second exhibition Hazel has curated since being a student at Sheffield University. In her previous experience she encountered Bridget Riley’s early black and white line drawings.

Other members of the curatorial team - responsible for the selection, organisation and hanging of the exhibition - include Anthea Bond, Hannah Northam, Ann Hackett and Roy Stove. They have all had experience submitting work as Friends for some years in an array of mediums. It is rare, both at the RBSA Gallery and at other museums and galleries, for an exhibition to be curated by practicing artists who are also Friends of the Gallery. Their involvement in this process is just one example of the unique opportunities that becoming a Friend at the RBSA Gallery entails. In addition, each curator will exhibit one piece of their own work with an accompanying piece of interpretative text.

As it is a fast turnover, from selection of the works to the hang, Hazel says the curatorial team have been attending other exhibitions in the West Midlands to get more ideas. At the private view (Sunday 20 March) Anita Bhalla, chair of the Midland Arts Centre will open the exhibition. Other events include an informal critique of the exhibition by David Brammeld RBSA and a demonstration of pen and wash drawings by Ann Hackett, both on Saturday 22 March.

Exhibiting at the RBSA is just one benefit of becoming a Friend and can often lead to becoming an Associate or Member. There are currently two exhibitions each year, which are only open to Friends. Also, as a society of artists, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer at the Gallery. Other events in the Friends' programme include artists’ talks, demonstrations and appraisals as well as free entry fees for Friends' and Open exhibitions. Hazel emphasised that starting out as a Friend provides an opening for non-artists, new artists who have not the chance to go to art school, and practicing artists alike.

Friends 2014 OS