ENRICHING CONTRIBUTION: Volunteers take guided tours around the gallery.
ENRICHING CONTRIBUTION: Volunteers take guided tours around the gallery. Mark Sherwood

Volunteering at GOMA: The art of being a show host

WHERE would we be without volunteers? They keep the wheels of society turning and a community functioning smoothly.

At the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), a mighty team of 104 volunteers not only love their duties giving guided tours and helping people have a better understanding of the work and exhibitions, they see it as an opportunity to learn and grow themselves.

"That is the biggest feedback we get from our volunteer guides,” Helen Bovey, Program Office for Access at the galleries said.

"They are all individuals and if you ask them what they like best about volunteering they will all tell you something different: favourite art works, artists, exhibitions. But what comes back every time is that they share a universal love of learning. (It doesn't matter) whether it is a contemporary or historical exhibition, it is the learning process they love.”

With an average age of 60, the volunteers are an excellent example of the power of ongoing learning in the later stages of life.

They are also rewarded by the knowledge they are a providing a useful and enriching contribution to their community.

A World View: The Tim Fairfax GiftVolunteer Guided Tour
SPECIAL DIRECTIONS: The Tim Fairfax Gift Volunteer Guided Tour. Chle Callistemon

Helen's role in rostering the volunteers and attending to all the associated administration is demanding.

"It's a big role to manage,” she said. "However, there is more than me that looks after the volunteer guides. I find it particularly rewarding. We are working with such a diverse group of people who are so passionate about what they do.”

The volunteers take guided tours around the gallery for small and large groups and work in both buildings.

"There are three daily guided tours and we also offer group tours for 10 or more people,” Helen said.

The training volunteers receive is quite extensive, held over many months and includes lectures and workshops on a variety of subjects.

"The volunteers learn about the galleries, the different areas, the exhibition names, about the collections, the strategies,” Helen said.

APT8 Volunteer guided tourThe 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8) Exhibition no. 2015.07 Start date 21/11/2015 End date 10/04/2016Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
SHOWING THE WAY: A volunteer guided tour is offered throughout the Art Gallery's shows. Joe Ruckli

Anyone can become a volunteer. There is no experience necessary or qualifications required.

"We do look for people who have the ability to communicate well, people who love lifelong learning,” Helen said. "A passion for art helps. And the ability to commit the time that is required. There is a huge time commitment.”

Volunteer guides are rostered on for one regular day a fortnight which helps them plan their personal schedules and other commitments around their volunteer work.

"The volunteers can be rostered on to both buildings,” Helen said. "We provide tours in QAG and GOMA, but the volunteers work on a particular day, the same day every fortnight.

"Half work in one building, half in the other. That arrangement continues for six months at a time. Then they swap to the other building.

"The six month cycle gives them a chance to get up to speed with the changing exhibitions. The one day a fortnight is ongoing.”

My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black AustraliaVolunteer guided tour
SHARING KNOWLEDGE: A volunteer guides visitors around the Art from Black Australia. exhibition. Mark Sherwood

Many of the volunteer guides have ten years' experience, a few have clocked up more than 30 years.

"The love coming to the galleries,” Helen said. "They become immersed in the galleries. They come in for lecture series, and when we have new exhibitions they hear from curators as the exhibitions are being developed.

"They receive an overview of the exhibition. We provide them with exhibition information and then they do their own research, spend time studying and researching artists, art work and exhibitions. It's part of the commitment. There is a huge amount of learning. It is one of the attractions, keeping the brain active.”

Find out more about becoming a volunteer QAGOMA at website: qagoma.qld.gov.au/about/careers

For information about QAGOMA's exhibitions, programs and volunteer guided tours visit the What's On calendar at website: qagoma.qld.gov.au/