Mark Miller — Circuit Programme National Lead and Convenor: Young People’s Programmes, Tate Britain/Tate Modern

My motivations for working with young people are based on social justice, equality of access to knowledge, resources and education for all. 

What do you most enjoy about your role?

What I enjoy most is hearing and seen young people discuss, question and generate ideas related to connecting art to their wider cultural, social and political experiences. As well as this, seeing those ideas become real in an event based formats within gallery spaces and context, with audiences at the centre.

What are the main challenges you face in your role?

The main challenge is time. Not enough time to do more research, critical thinking, and more conversations with colleagues at Tate and outside of Tate.

What’s a ‘typical’ day in your working life like?

Currently planning the dissemination of learning from Circuit national programme, as well as Tate Britain and Tate Modern projects, therefore communication range from nation and strategic direction, to specific Tate projects for young people. So, a day would include, check calendar deadlines, priority emails and meetings, first thing in the morning. Meetings with teams to update on structure, content and key messages of publication. Reading contribution to Circuit publication by Circuit partners and evaluation team. Meeting with Tate Schools and teachers team to plan a cross team week long collaboration for the Tate Exchange programme. We will budgets, which artists, timeline for delivery, roles and responsibilities across teams. Meet Circuit manager to plan and structure the Circuit programme final report.

Why did you decide to go into gallery/visual arts education?

It was never an ambition of mine to work in galleries. I had worked with young people in a youth work education setting for several years, as well as being a visual artist. I didn’t realise galleries had education/learning departments, or teams, until I was introduced via the Inter Gallery Education course, led by Alana Jelenik. I heard about the course from an artist friend, then applied to take part. It was an 8 week course in best-practice pedagogy which included a placements across London museums and galleries, including Tate Modern, British Library, South London Gallery, Horniman Museum, Whitechapel Gallery and Hayward Gallery. This was a progressive course which aimed to balance the diversity of the museum and gallery workforce and provide some transparency about the skills required to enter these spaces. I did a placement at Tate Britain, where I met a very supportive Learning team, who suggest I apply for the Curator Youth Programme role. My motivations for working with young people are based on social justice, equality of access to knowledge, resources and education for all. Combined with this, the visual arts have been central to my life experiences and perspectives on both a personal and professional level. This work has enabled me to merge these areas of my life.

How did you get where you are today? What skills, experience or qualifications have you needed?

Skills and experience include, working with young people from a diverse range of backgrounds who were facing a wide range of challenges in their lives. This built a significant awareness, solidarity and understanding of the varied social, cultural and economic barriers many young people face daily. Additionally, appreciating different learning styles, knowledge and experience of the visual arts processes and functions as a practitioner. Having a clear vision, based on values personal and professional motivations to work develop and establish. Ability to plan, negotiate, collaborate and be adaptable to suit aims and objects of a project, its context and stakeholders. I have a Masters, but I would put transferable practical experience, skills and knowledge above formal qualifications.

What advice would you give to those thinking about a career in gallery/visual arts education?

Read as much as possible about the sectors past and current research, insights, policies and projects, as well as meet practitioners informally to discuss their work and about. This can help to work out what you might want to do that is progressive and moves existing practices forward.

Engage often receives enquiries about how to gain work experience in the sector. What advice would you give to these people?

Not all, but many gallery and museum education practitioners are open to meeting informally for coffee to discuss what they do and how, as an initial introduction to the sector. I would advise joining some of the young people’s advisory or peer-led group who deliver programmes for and by young people, which are often voluntary. Seek opportunities such as placements, internships, any training programme that provide transferable skills, such as organisational, interpersonal, team work, building partnerships and/or collaboration with various organisations and individuals across art forms.

What have been your career highlights/best moments so far?

Seeing how the Circuit programme has developed over the past 4 years to impact young people positively through informal learning, as well as partner gallery practitioners’ progressive approach to working with young people.

How has being an Engage member helped your career?

Engage has helped with building awareness of the good practice that exist and is being developed across the UK. It’s also been a long-term, much needed, consistent resource and platform. Through these shifting uncertain times, Engage is extremely valuable for questioning, capturing and creating access to gallery education in the visual arts.