• Jamie Lee Aitken

My Visual Arts Internship Experience by Josie Oliver

In September 2020 I applied for the Visual Arts Internship at the CatStrand. I was interested in broadening my experience of visual arts and getting to know the industry of being a working artist, as well as learning about how to put on a real exhibition. I was also excited about the prospect of being mentored by a working visual artist, Rory Laycock, and working alongside him in his studio. After I was offered the internship we immediately set to work organising a printmaking exhibition aimed at introducing young people to the art of print making.

Firstly this involved creating an advertisement calling for printmakers to send us draft prints or copies of work for us to display. We heard back from many different artists, some local and some as far away as Sweden! Once we collated and framed all the prints I hung them in the The Smiddy Gallery in Balmaclellan along with an installation Rory had made based on “Gen Z” with work from the digital art youth workshops. It was really interesting learning how to organise an exhibition and deciding how to display work in a space - both things I had never done before! After I’d finished this project I was then asked to help organise an exhibition of the Upland Emerge’s final pieces. This was a year long project where three local young artists were each partnered with an established artist who mentored them on their craft. After liaising with the artists I was able to arrange times for us to meet at the CatStrand to hang their work and I built a new display case to present the ceramic pieces. Unfortunately once everything was sorted and ready to be opened to the public, we ended up going into lockdown soon after!

Along with my work on exhibitions for the CatStrand I visited my internship mentor, Rory Laycock, at his studio in Langholm. Rory specialises in installations and artworks exploring our relationship with technology and social media, and recently taught youth workshops at the CatStrand on digital art forms such as 3D printing and social media filters. With Rory I explored virtual reality and thinking outside the box, as well as discussing the next steps I could take in building my own brand. One of the projects we worked on was spray painting a bike that would be placed in Langholm as a local art feature. This was interesting as I’ve never used spray paints before - it was definitely difficult to get the hang of and I admire anyone that can use them to create a clear drawing, as I struggled to spray a straight line!

I also helped out at the Art Explorers kids workshops held at the CatStrand. These workshops introduce young people to new art styles, and allows them to experiment with new techniques. Since going into lockdown again we have continued these workshops as online videos that can be done from home!

This experience has been greatly beneficial to me in terms of broadening my artistic abilities and gaining confidence in my ideas. The skills I have learned will aid me not only in my art practice but in understanding how to search for opportunities and promote myself. I am very grateful to my mentor Rory and to the CatStrand for giving me this opportunity to learn and develop my craft!

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