#UPYouthMonth: Javett-UP equips interns with what it takes to enter the art world through UNICEF programme

Posted on June 22, 2021

The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP) has partnered with UP’s School of the Arts as participants in the UNICEF Youth Empowerment Under Health/Economic Crisis programme, based on the enhanced wellbeing, humaneness and resilience derived from appreciating beauty and aesthetics. Art enriches, heals and strengthens those who appreciate works of art, as well as those who produce them, and has been shown to help people cope with adversity through fostering a deeper understanding of societal, emotional and other life matters.

Part of the project includes a six-month internship at Javett-UP which includes hands-on training and contractual responsibilities with exposure across departments. Through gaining a wide range of expertise at the centre, students are given strong foundations and skills in order to become adept and confident as they venture into the art world. Two interns who have been through the programme shared the impact that it’s had on them, what they learnt, as well advice for other young people looking to enter a career in the arts:

Georgina Glass completed her BA in Fine Arts with distinction in 2020 from UP and is currently studying towards a master’s in fine art. “The UNICEF internship provided an amazing opportunity to gain experience in a field that is difficult to break into, and an opportunity to work with individuals who have significant experience,” she said. “I was involved in putting up the Handle With Care exhibition, which was incredible. While I learnt so much at Javett-UP, the most profound experience was really just how kind my colleagues were to me – I felt trusted, useful and included, and that made my work environment somewhere where I really wanted to be.”

With regards to entering the arts, Glass cautioned that it’s a difficult field to break into and putting one’s work out into the world can be exhausting. “You really have to love it, because you're going to have to work really hard to make it work. Criticism will come, and you will need to develop a thick skin, even though it feels really personal as creative work is often an extension of oneself.” She noted the importance of young people engaging with their communities, in whatever forms are possible for them, and explained that this can help with the formation of identity. “Have conversations, listen to stories, find out where you’ve come from so you can know where you’re going,” she said.

Danielle Oosthuizen is a young visual artist working predominantly in the field of bio art – a newly established international field of artmaking concerned with the integration of biology, art and science. She is currently employed at Javett-UP as the education and public engagement coordinator. “The internship enabled me to become recognised for a position in the curatorial office, and I am extremely grateful to UNICEF for providing me with this wonderful opportunity,” she said. “I am using skills I learnt on the programme to assist in everyday aspects related to education, events and curatorial practices. As I provide VIP tours for special guests and visitors who often come from very knowledgeable backgrounds, it is important to be informed with the newest techniques and practices in conservation, curation, tourism, art restoration, etc. The UNICEF programme provided a very versatile and layered programme that aids in a broad knowledge and understanding of the arts and museum practices.”

Oosthuizen’s tips for success are that it all comes down to hard work, and availing oneself when needed. “Also, remember to never give up. I worked part time at Javett-UP as an intern and gallery guide for two and a half years before becoming a full-time employee. If you have a goal, stay committed, even though you feel that you might never get anywhere, someone will see your hard work and talent and give you an opportunity.”

As to how the youth can use the arts in order to help their communities, Oosthuizen says that dialogical pedagogy (teaching in which dialogue is central) during community engagement sessions is a beautiful way of discovering new stories and indigenous knowledge. “These discussions are often facilitated through the process of art viewing or artmaking. Art provides a sense of comfort and intrigue, but also establishes emotional connections for community members who have perhaps experienced similar events or traumas spoken about in an artwork. The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance,” she said.

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