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Wednesday 2 June 2021

How volunteering makes an impact – Volunteers’ Week 2021

In a special article for #VolunteersWeek2021, our volunteer Alla writes about her experience of volunteering at the gallery and how her time with us has made an impact on her career.

From the very start of the birth of civilisation, people realised the need to congregate and engage with each other in activities that were not part of everyday chores and necessary jobs to survive as a species. People gathered to worship, to dance, to socialise and to engage with arts as soon as the collective human consciousness was established. Creativity was and is what makes us human. Orleans House Gallery is one of those places where creativity is nurtured and developed to serve the local community and visitors from near and afar.

In 2017 I was having an early middle-life crisis. I had a successful corporate career, two young children and a heart that desired something more for itself. I was a young woman who realised that she had now lived half of her professional life and enjoyed it, but she also could not imagine doing just that for another 30 years. A serious conversation with my manager followed and we came to an agreement that I would change my work to a part-time role, so that I could follow my passion and explore how I could use my art history degree. I started to network and to contact local charities to see if any arts organisation needed a volunteer.

By the time I had landed a volunteer interview with Orleans House Gallery, I already decided that I also wanted to open an educational business. My idea was to make art history interesting and accessible to children, so that from an early age children can learn not only to appreciate art but also link it to the social-historical contexts of when it was created. My vision was to create a space where children enjoy thinking about the past while looking at the visual evidence we have collectively preserved.

Orleans House Gallery is a very special organisation and I think when you volunteer for it, you get to truly appreciate that. The team is innovative, it always has the community in mind and all people involved are truly dedicated to creating unique, fun, meaningful experiences, which are mostly low-cost or even free. Combined with truly breathtaking surroundings and architecture every visit is a source of strength and inspiration for all ages. For me it is an honour and a privilege to serve as a volunteer in Orleans House Gallery.

From a practical point of view, I want to credit Orleans House Gallery for a few things I learned as a volunteer. I noticed how open this organisation is to networking and connecting with the public and creatives in equal measure, how agile the team is, able to react to the huge challenges such as Covid-19 with moving programs around, implementing additional safety measures, opening the Gallery as soon as it was possible to do so safely or adjusting activities so they fit new requirements but remain fun and also, how dedicated the team is to making sure Orleans House remains welcoming to all.

As I grow “Vincent and Frida”, my educational company that teaches art history and art appreciation to children, Orleans House Gallery remains a source of inspiration to me. When coronavirus hit, my company was only a few months old with five students attending classes weekly and I must admit for a few weeks, I felt lost. However, when I realised that if my company remained focused on connecting with the families and providing interesting and meaningful classes, just like Orleans House, there was a good chance that my company could keep operating in the online space. As a result, over this year, “Vincent and Frida” has taught over 80 children with themes ranging from Cave art to Kandinsky. Every now and again I come to the grounds, look at Orleans House Gallery and I know that when life will be back to normal, this space will be there for us again. Such visits give me hope and strength. When the Orleans House Gallery will reopen, I will be back as a volunteer for children’s events, as a business owner to rent out beautiful spaces, and as a visitor to simply enjoy everything Orleans House is.

Alla splits her time between a corporate career as a compliance specialist, running her educational business “Vincent and Frida” using her art history degree and raising two daughters aged 9 and 6. Alla believes that every area of a person’s life does not have to compete with any other, but rather complement, enrich and support our goals.

We’ll have more on our volunteers on our social media platforms throughout Volunteer’s Week! You can read all of our volunteers’ articles on works from the collection on our Latest page. Would you like to write your own article about the collection? Join our volunteer team and you could be featured next! For this, and other opportunities, visit our Volunteering page.