Volunteer experiences

A gallery volunteer in a workshop.

What do our volunteers say?

Whilst you are volunteering for us you will hear about lots of different opportunities to get involved in the work we do. We hope you will make the most of these opportunities and your time with us.

Each volunteer in the Gallery has a different story to tell about why they got involved and what they have got out of the experiences. Some of our volunteers have agreed to share their stories. Martin has been a volunteer for just over two years and Marlena volunteered at the Gallery of Costume for six months last year.

Martin's story:

I volunteer with the Family Learning team and I assist staff and freelance artists with Mini Art Club, Family and Material of the month workshops. I’ve also volunteered with Lifelong Learning Activities and invigilation of the 11 Rooms exhibition.

I decided to volunteer when I was made redundant from a job I’d held for several years. Over a period of months I volunteered in Wales and at the Cube Gallery in Manchester. Then one day I met Alex Thorp and she inspired me immediately to contact Manchester Art Gallery and see if I could volunteer there. I got the chance to volunteer and I’ve never looked back.

The best thing about volunteering at Manchester Art Gallery has been working with creative people like Alex, Deanna, Michiko and Louise. They have been truly inspirational and I will always be grateful for their help and the confidence they have given me. The other great thing has been the smiles on the children’s faces and the utter mess of clay, paper, and glue! I have really enjoyed being part of such a wonderful team of dedicated people striving for goals and new ideas and inspiring people on a daily basis. It’s been fun, educational and challenging.

I’ve developed so many new skills whilst volunteering here - how to create a safe, creative, exciting workshop and run it with success. How to tidy up after the delightful craziness has subsided so it looks like it never happened. I’ve also learnt the importance of documenting my work, speaking confidently and painting with more dedication. I now share my knowledge, skills and experience more widely and can give children at the school I work at, creative ideas that I learnt at MAG during the workshops.

Volunteering at Manchester Art Gallery makes me feel immensely proud and like I have found what I want to do for the rest of my life. As a result of the time volunteering I was able to get a role as a lunchtime assistant in a school. The challenges in this role come thick and fast and my ability to spin on the spot and be multi directional whilst dealing with 10 things at once has been quite successful.

At the school I have painted the wedding of William and Kate for the children. I was Van Gogh for a while and the children enjoyed painting on my canvas. All this has been made possible with the help of Manchester Art Gallery and the confidence I have gained. I am passionate about what I have done and when I talk to others about the workshop it comes through in my enthusiasm.

Marlena's story:

My role is in documentation and cataloguing photographic archive, meeting and greeting visitors, supporting the young people’s project ‘Stories of the World’, delivering community events (e.g. Good Neighbours Day at Trinity House in Rusholme), exhibition installation (Grayson Perry Visual Dialogues at Manchester Art Gallery).

I decided to volunteer because I was specifically looking for an internship or placement to get specific fashion collection experience as I’m hoping to develop my career in fashion curating. I have really enjoyed the opportunities provided and I think the best thing for me was being able to get involved with so many different things. I didn’t expect to do more than meeting and greeting people on the door but the longer I was here the more I heard about and got involved with. My favourite day was when we created a window installation with the young people’s group. I didn’t think it was going to work out but it did!

Whilst I’ve been volunteering I’ve got used to talking to lots of different people. It’s not easy explaining and introducing things when you’re not used to it. I may seem confident but that kind of thing used to scare me a bit. But now it’s like second nature. The Gallery of Costume is very laid-back and that has helped. It doesn’t really feel like how I imagined a museum or gallery to be. Everyone knows what they’re doing but it’s a relaxed friendly atmosphere. There are no tensions or big dramas!

Volunteering has definitely helped me career wise because it’s in a museum setting. I’ve learned about museum cataloguing which I didn’t know before because my background is in auctioneering. Being involved with the Community Development programme has made my skills and interests more diverse and I’ve enjoyed getting to know Manchester better.

I hope I have helped the Gallery. I enjoyed documenting the collection, but know there is a lot more to do. I think I’ve helped to make the Gallery welcoming to visitors and because I’ve always been willing to give new things a go and taken opportunities as they’ve come up I’ve been able to step in when they’ve needed me.


A gallery volunteer in a workshop.
Find out about the volunteer programme at MCG.