In our final Sector Spotlight on Creative Industries, we hear from Carol Dunbar who is the Learning and Engagement Programme Manager at the Pier Arts Centre.
Following school, Carol studied Woven Tapestry and Printmaking at Edinburgh School of Art, spending 18 months working in Australia as a tapestry weaver after her graduation. When she returned to Scotland, she worked as a freelance artist and tutor. Throughout her career, she has spent time working for a local textile design company, delivered classes and workshops and working as a part-time lecturer at Orkney College UHI. She joined the Pier Arts Centre in 2005 as Education Officer.
Can you describe a typical day in your role as Learning and Engagement Programme Manager?
I am currently working from home, spending one day a week in my office at the Pier Arts Centre.
A normal day will include checking and responding to emails, speaking by ‘Zoom’ or in person with my colleagues to discuss and make plans for the Centre’s artistic and creative programmes. I might be making a funding application to develop new learning programmes or overseeing and managing an artist-led project with children or young people. I might be writing up a report, visiting a school, or researching a particular artist’s work. I might be out in the gallery giving a tour of our exhibitions or I might be providing lunch cover in the shop or reception.
Normally it’s quite a sociable job, but with the pandemic it’s been much quieter. I used to travel quite a lot and now find myself ‘zooming’ in to lots of meeting and events across Scotland and the UK. It’s a job where there is always something new to learn.
I’m part of a small team and I have a very varied job, sometimes it’s a lot of paperwork, other times it’s out on a beach with a group of artists or school children.
How did you end up in this role?
My main task is to encourage people to enjoy art and be creative. I’m now at the ‘top’ of my career ladder as a manager, but I got here by many small steps, volunteering on art projects, helping other artists with their projects, learning as I went along, building up experience and skills that I could then pass on to others.
When I left school, I went to Edinburgh College of Art and studied woven tapestry and printmaking. Following graduation I spent 18 months overseas working in Australia as a tapestry weaver. When I returned to Scotland and then to Orkney, I worked as a freelance artist and tutor.
For many years I did a variety of things including working in a local craft shop; working with a local textile design company on the ‘production line’, delivering classes and workshops on the OIC community education programme. Delivering art projects at the Pier Arts Centre, lecturing part-time at Orkney College in Art and Design and then in 2005 I got my ‘dream’ job as Education Officer here at the Pier Arts Centre. It was a new post created specially to develop the learning programme for the Centre once it reopened following major refurbishment in 2007. In 2019 my job title changed to Learning and Engagement Programme Manager to better reflect the nature of the job.
What is the best thing about your job?
Encouraging others to enjoy looking at and making art. There are no right or wrong answers or ways of doing things and I love seeing the amazing work that people create, young and old. I love talking about art and sharing my enthusiasm for it with others. We have an amazing collection of art at the Pier Arts Centre and it’s such a privilege to work there. I work with a great team of people who are all really committed and passionate about what we do.
What is the worst thing about your job?
There is very little that I don’t enjoy about my job, maybe the worst thing is not enough time and having to meet deadlines.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
I need to be:
What qualifications do you have?
I have a degree in Art & Design and a Post Graduate teaching qualification.
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
Working in the arts and museums sector is great! You don’t have to be an ‘artist’, there are an enormous number of roles and skills that go into running an art gallery and museum.
We need people with good social skills at the front of house, meeting and greeting people, people who are good at maths, keeping the bank balance and finance in order and correct, people who are good with their hands who can hang the pictures on our walls, make display cases and such like; people with technology skills who can keep social media up to date and of course, people who know about art to curate and plan our exhibitions and displays.
If you are lucky enough to work for an organisation like the Pier Arts Centre you will have many opportunities to involve yourself across a wide spectrum of activities that come under the umbrella of the creative industries.
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