A Progress In Work - By Nicola Weiss

Monday, September 18, 2017
An extensive recount of my year 10 work experience at Gaffa. This five day journey meandered through many aspects of the art world, as I'm delved within the meticulous innerworkings of gallery life. 

I find the idea of work experience funny.  Not the typical ‘haha’ type funny, but more of an existential funny.  The whole concept of a school conditioning you to be so uniform, and relying on dependency, and then plunging you into a week of unexplored, unguided and self-governing new territory unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before where individuality is praised – only to grab you back into another two years of school after a taste of freedom. Although I may make it seem more intently malicious than probably originally conceived by my school, I still find it a bit comical.  However, the week of work experience that the cohort of year 10 students that I coincide with partook in was one of the most educational and meaningful experiences I’ve had during my time in high school.

Leading up to my final decision to come to Gaffa, with many ‘guidance’s’ from my careers advisor, I pursued many law firms, doctors’ surgeries, miscellaneous production companies, and a handful of vets. I believe I rang, emailed and spoke to over 50 businesses and institutions – with no avail. Eventually, while hopelessly perusing my options on the Internet, I came across Gaffa. After calling and being happily welcomed and accepted by the gallery, a moral dilemma emerged. Although the arts are ultimately my biggest passion, I had never planned on pursuing it after school due to conflicts of interest within my life. I had always planned on going to law school, becoming a soulless but successful lawyer and living in a fancy house in London, (probably hating every minute of my job). This is further compelled by my grandfather’s constant repetition in his thick Czechoslovakian accent “Nicola, you must get a job that robots won't replace”, he says almost every time the topic of future jobs comes up. “Be a doctor or a lawyer, Nicola, then you’ll make money and the robots won't take over job and you’ll be successful. Promise you’ll be smart about your decisions.” Well, that’s a guilt trip and a half, thanks my strangely-cynical-about-robots grandfather. Nevertheless, I decided to come to an art gallery just to see my alternate path in life that I could take that would allow me to really enjoy my job.


When I first arrived at Gaffa, at 12pm on a hot Monday afternoon (another perk of coming to Gaffa was getting to come in around noon everyday - a major plus), I met Jenny and Felix, two out of the three main admins that work there. They were extremely welcoming and friendly. I mostly did office stuff that day, making posters and TV slides for the coming exhibition opening on Thursday, took a few pictures of the old exhibit about to be taken down, and mostly had a very chill day. The location of Gaffa was amazing, a prime city residence. This helped me realize that I would love to work in the city when I’m older. That’s one conclusion I’ve come to for my future job so far.  I got lunch with my friend who was a bit dead inside from his time working at the law courts and after completing a few more tasks, getting a tour of the gallery and creative spaces and chatting to the admins and artists who reside in Gaffa, I made my commute home.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were extremely interesting days. I met Kimberley, the head of the gallery on Tuesday and helped take down the art works from the past exhibition. Surprisingly, I was taught a lot of home improvement skills e.g. how to properly use a drill, set up a projector, how to sand down and paint walls and use spackfill (the putty thing that you put in walls, I think it’s called that). Wednesday was the highlight of my week. I was able to meet a colourful assortment of characters whose artworks are being put up for the latest exhibition. I was able to talk to them about their lives, artworks and career paths, which gave me an in-depth look into the art world and a truly educational experience. The amount of individuality and pure positivity that flooded these people was amazing, I could write an entire book about each of them. The conversations I had with the artists gave me a lot of insight into various aspects of the art world. It was also just a very chill and fun day. I got to record the artists put up their art which I loved, as film making and photography is one of my main passions, and I actually got to be apart of the creative process in itself, assisting them in the positioning and framing of some of their pieces.  I can't wait to see what other art emerges from these talented minds in the future.

Thursday night was the exhibition opening night. As each person walked up the stairs into the gallery, I could see just how much the art means to these artists, art supporters and family members coming to relish in the pieces displayed. I met some wonderful volunteers and interns who made me feel very welcomed into this brand new experience. I was joined by a few of my closest friends who I explained my knowledge of the artworks and artists to, as we scanned the various galleries.  I didn’t even realize it, but I began to feel like I actually did work at Gaffa. It was very cool to see the reaction of my friends, as they looked around the impressive gallery, specifically enjoying the amazing view from the terrace rooftop. I felt very proud of the place where I was working and got enjoyment out of my friends appreciating the gallery.

Now, as I write this in the quaint administration office on a Friday afternoon, the sounds of the thriving city filling the space with a peaceful industrial ambiance, I really have to source how great my experience was to the people that work at Gaffa. Spending a week with them has truly enlightened me to how much they care about their art and the gallery and the level of determination to provide a warm and welcoming place for artists and creators is very admirable. They always found a way to accommodate me and even when I wasn’t necessarily doing any tasks, I was able to watch some humorous interactions between the admins and partake in very thought-provoking conversations.


The crossroads in my life is slowly meandering into one path. After this experience within a working artistic environment, I realize that my career path doesn’t have to be so black and white. I guess making art can never really be replaced by a robot – so I’ve got that aspect covered – and I should really just do what makes me happy. I’m just glad that I’ve got two more years to decide this and that I’ve been able to come to Gaffa to ease my choices and provide me with an unforgettable time.


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