In today’s post, Ruby reflects on her journey so far at the Whitworth.
My name is Ruby and I am one of the Visitor Team Support Assistants here at The Whitworth. My journey at the Whitworth started with The Whitworth Young Contemporaries – or WYC as it was known. I had come to the gallery before and I was very much brought up around it, but WYC really ignited my interest in art and the organisation itself.
When I was fifteen I was working with a music group called Sat’day Allsorts (now Voice and Beatz Collective) based in Hulme at the Z-Arts Centre, who were approached by a very early incarnation of WYC. This was during the renovations that were happening at the Whitworth so we were based in various different community centres and creative hubs for a year before the reopening. From the beginning I felt supported and, despite being one of the youngest members, appreciated. We worked with some amazing artists and practitioners, without whom I would probably have never gone to art school or pursued my current career that I’m working towards in any sort of methodical or realistic way.
We then started photographing people around the city, asking each person what art meant to them. Then we were talking to the Manchester MC collective Mouse Outfit, printing t-shirts, visiting the building site that was the Whitworth in 2014, and then we were doing an event on the re-opening night of the gallery. It felt very sudden; after almost a year of workshops, research and comparatively small events, there was a long line of people waiting to come into a space that we had worked hard for.
It was a huge success. We were ecstatic and very excited for the next big project which didn’t really come until a year later. After we had curated Summer Art Parties and Gallery Takeovers, it was time for Warp Festival. We knew this would be a massive task and we felt prepared, or at least I did until I saw just how much we were doing! Making sound installations in sheds, building bikes that blared out hip hope and reggae and a huge amount of different workshops, all happening in the Whitworth Park and Gallery. We were programming acts which included: people dancing whilst dressed as trees, fire jugglers, a dance group and an orchestra which had merged with a group of MCs.
The weekend was incredibly successful, with thousands of people coming together to enjoy the fruits of our collective labour. It was a proper festival with people of all ages seeing what a group of 15-25 year old’s could do in a gallery which trusted them.
The opportunities with WYC didn’t completely consist of organising events but there were chances to work with different kinds of working artists, from spoken word artists to filmmakers. We also travelled together to various different art galleries across the country to meet with other youth groups who were doing similar things to us. During my time at WYC I also ended up running workshops for them; this was while I was at art school so it was a really educational experience.
Eventually all of these opportunities for stage management, volunteering and just generally knowing the gallery, paid off in a big way. If it wasn’t for all those experiences I doubt that I would’ve even gotten an interview for the job I currently have at the gallery. I don’t think it was the only reason but it certainly helped. I am incredibly grateful for the support, opportunities and experiences that WYC has given me over the years and thank you to the people who have made it really special.
You can find out more about WYC here