Arts Ambassador Katherine Wells interviews Kate Maple, Curator of Solent Showcase Gallery about her career and what’s planned for 2019.
Kate Maple: My name is Kate Maple and I am the curator of Solent Showcase Gallery.
Katherine Wells: How did you come to work within the arts?
KM: I graduated from Essex University, way way back, in the early nineties. It was a long time ago, but there was a recession going on at the same time, so my path working in the arts was quite a windy one, because it’s been really difficult to get work, so I had to find ways to get jobs, doing voluntary work and trying lots of different things. I always wanted to work in the arts from a very young age and I think if you’re really passionate about it, you stick at it, so that’s what I’ve been doing since the nineties. Little jobs here and there, and then gradually building to bigger jobs, but it’s been quite a windy path.
KW: Can you talk about your role now?
KM: I’m currently curator of Showcase Gallery, which is my favourite job. I love it, it’s great. I have to – we’re a really small team, there’s only two of us, and then we have lots of students to help us, but we have to devise programmes, research, implement, deliver all of the arts programmes for the whole year, so it’s really varied work, really busy, but ultimately really exciting.
KW: How has Solent Showcase brought wider awareness and engagement to the arts?
KM: I think over the last few years we’ve been really changing the role of the gallery here. We’ve really been listening to people in Southampton, to what they’ve said they want or need from a cultural provision in the city and tried to play to our strengths as a small venue that’s very centrally located to try and do some really exciting programming and look at social inclusion and socially-engaged practice. For me, it’s really important to have people participating and engaging with artwork in here and even being part of the process of making the work. We’ve been trying to work with communities really closely to ask them what they want and what they need and work with them to help deliver that, and over the next few years we’re going to do that more and more strongly, and it seems to be working. We’re getting really good responses – people seem to be enjoying what we’re doing, and our audience is growing, which is great.
KW: What are your plans for 2019?
KM: Coming up in 2019, we hope to have lots of community-related exhibitions, lists of participatory projects, things that go off-site and around the city, asking lots of questions about what it is like to live here, what is your experience of the city, how do different communities feel about living here? Do they feel welcome? Do they feel part of the cultural quarter? We’re asking lots of interesting questions and researching what people need and expect from a cultural quarter.
KW: And lastly, what advice would you give someone trying to establish themselves within the arts?
KM: Working within the arts is an amazing career because it’s really fulfilling – it really makes you feel like you’re giving something to the wider community and I do believe you can change the world through the arts and other things. I think if you want to work in that field, you have to be passionate enough to make it work. You have to be determined and you have to try lots of different parts of the job. I think if you just go straight into a job as a manager or curator, you’re not really learning all the ways in which a job or gallery is run. I’d say start at the bottom – make the tea, stuff the envelopes, learn all the different elements of the job, and you’ll find out which part of it is your passion and what you want to do.
Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton