It's Volunteers' Week 2024!

'Thank you, Volunteers' banner for Volunteers' Week

We are proud to have the support of an amazing group of volunteers, and this week is all about them.

The RWA has around 150 volunteers who support us in nine key roles across the organisation. Their contributions include stewarding in our galleries, helping with Scribble and Sketch workshop, conducting tours, and serving on our Board of Trustees. Their generous support makes these activities possible.

For Volunteers' Week 2024 we spoke to four of our exceptional volunteers who alongside fulfilling their roles have also become friends and advisors to the RWA team. 


L-R: Bella, Melanie, Tom and Yide

Yide, Tom, Bella and Melanie, thank you for letting us interview you! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

Yide: I am an artist and teacher from Taiwan. I previously studied education and oriental art at National Taiwan Normal University.   

Bella: I am a second-year student at the University of Bristol, and I come from a small town in Yorkshire, near Manchester. Before this, I had only really worked retail jobs, but after studying History of Art I realised how interested I am in working for museums and galleries and signed up to volunteer. 

Tom: I am a retired teacher who worked in Bristol Secondary Schools for almost 40 years. I always have had an interest in Art, Design and Music throughout my life but in retirement began to seriously work in sculpture and what I now call iPhoneArt!

You started about a year ago and have completed over 100 hours of volunteering – amazing! What led you to join the RWA as a volunteer? 

Melanie:  I had just retired and was looking for a way to get involved with Arts and Crafts.  I found an advert on the Voscur website.  It is a win win situation, I get to interact with a variety of people of all ages and skills and even hear the artists talk about their work when we have a pre-exhibition briefing.

Yide: Moving to Bristol just over a year ago, I thought that volunteering at an art gallery would be a great way to gain an appreciation of the local culture and art. The RWA is welcoming and makes me feel as though I am home.    

Tom: The RWA seemed to be a really friendly, welcoming place. Especially after the renovations, just walking into the building was wonderful. I also thought that being a volunteer would allow me time to really study the exhibitions and get lost in the space.


Bella, how has volunteering impacted your History of Art studies? 

Volunteering at an art gallery has been hugely beneficial It has provided me with inspiration and information for assignments, and a better understanding of the curatorial process - especially helpful for my curating module this year. The RWA's flexible volunteer hours also fit in well with my university schedule.


Tom, what was it like volunteering at the Dinner with Grayson Event as your first session?

Helping out was great fun. How could it not be with Grayson in attendance? Seeing behind-the-scenes at the RWA and meeting and talking to guests was definitely an enjoyable part of the evening. It was a celebratory event within a wonderful space and you could sense that the guests also felt that.


Melanie, you have helped us as a Family Learning Volunteer at Scribble & Sketch, Happy Mondays, Tuesday Teatime Tours, Baby Group… the list keeps going! Can you tell us about a particularly memorable moment? 

A mum told me she was going to buy some stickers for her child to use at home as they had been interacting with her so well during a Scribble and Sketch session.  It's great to think that the RWA has reached out not only into the community but into a home.


Yide, what do you enjoy about most about being a gallery steward?

Meeting people in front of the artworks is what I enjoy the most when volunteering. When I am looking after visitors, I really enjoy knowing what they are seeing, answering their questions, and hearing their stories and feelings that are triggered by the artworks. 


Bella, has volunteering revealed anything surprising about how the RWA functions?

I have a better understanding of how collaborative a process creating an exhibition is – there is not just a curator and technician, but a huge amount of people involved. I also have more of an awareness of some of the barriers to visiting museums, and ways in which outreach and engagement programmes can help bring more people in.


Finally, if you could curate an exhibition at the RWA, what would it be about and which artists would you include?

Yide: My exhibition would be about how can we use bodily imagination to explore identity and social issues from the Asian perspective. I would choose the young contemporary artists Tseng ChienYing, Chien ChihKang and Jam Wu from Taiwan, and Yu Jinyoung from South Korea.

Melanie: I would love to see an exhibition on the Theme of Climate Change to include Rebecca Lee Kunz, Madjeen Isaac, Benjamin West and also invite local artists to contribute on this theme.

Tom: What a difficult question! I will go for a joint exhibition of Barbara Hepworth sculptures and Ben Nicholson’s drawings and paintings. I love the tension and texture of Hepworth’s sculpture and in Nicholson’s June 1937 you have my favourite painting of all time. I’m sure the Tate will let us borrow it!

Bella: I find artworks that have had political resonance – whether intentionally or not – the most fascinating. For example, the use of the Lancellotti versus Townley Discobolus in WWII to represent the German or British sides respectively. 


We could only speak to four of our volunteers this time, but the RWA wants to extend an enormous thank you to all of its volunteers who do so much to support our community.  


If you are interested in joining our team of volunteers, you can visit the RWA Volunteer Hub to find out more.