Public galleries provide audiences with opportunities to engage with the visual arts, creating a sense of connection and community, reducing social isolation, improving health and education outcomes and enriching the lives of those they reach. This is achieved by a dedicated group of gallery professionals who bring a vast range of skills and experience and adhere to international standards, to deliver exciting visual art experiences, commission new work and care for nationally significant collections of art and cultural materials.
The PGAV is pleased to highlight eight roles within the public gallery sector and the people who occupy these specialist positions. Learn about their career pathways, the challenges inherent in their roles, and what they identify as the key issues facing the public gallery sector.
* A Profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and who hold themselves out as, and are accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.
Australian Council of Professions, 2003
Director & CEO
"One of the ironies about being a Director, well, certainly something that has guided my approach, is to remember that just as your staff team is working with and for you, you are working for them."
Bendigo Art Gallery
"I think in the era of ‘experienced based culture’ maintaining relevance and the ability to be responsive and agile to the market is challenging – particularly in institutions that are historic, and collection based."
Heide Museum of Modern Art
"Deep knowledge of art and curatorial practice, and business and finance experience and acumen are not necessarily mutually exclusive, however, there is much potential benefit to having two minds and skill sets working in concert in the gallery/art museum environment."
Koorie Heritage Trust
"As experienced curators, we are conditioned to exhibitions being installed and deinstalled. However, sometimes it is very emotional to see an exhibition be deinstalled as the relationship with the artist/s is really valued but overall, it is always a genuine feeling of achievement, in being able to showcase First Peoples art and culture."
Curator - Indigenous
Shepparton Art Museum (SAM)
"[A] big part [of the role] for me is to enable connections to be made. Whether it be between visitors and the art, or artists and visitors it’s about seeing connections made through spirit, story, place and people - this is an Aboriginal way."
Registrar - Exhibitions and Loans
Art Gallery of Ballarat
"I particularly enjoy the pointy end of the process when exhibitions staff are working to the line to finesse the presentation of a show. I love the energy and anticipation of the half hour before an exhibition finally opens, listening to the excited hum of patrons gathering to enjoy and hopefully be inspired and edified by the fruits of our labours."
With Ainsley Gowing, Registrar at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.
"The role requires a sound understanding of preventative conservation and the composition of the work of art you are caring for as well as art history. Having a holistic vision of the processes to pull an exhibition together that you are working is important to ensuring the safety for the work art."
With Penny Teale, Senior Curator at Bunjil Place Gallery.
"Developing a range of associated programming for both adult and young audiences, from multilingual labels and tours to coming up with creative ways to share information that removes barriers and encourages a stronger, more meaningful dialogue with audiences is a really rewarding part of the job. We spend a lot of time considering methods and programs that speak to the specifics of an artist’s practice or exhibition premise."
With Andrew Tetzlaff, Senior Curator at RMIT Culture.
"Coming up with the idea and project rationale is really just one part of the equation—a more important part is the work put into figuring out how to take someone on the journey to it.
I’m particularly excited about the project I’m working on at the moment in partnership with The Big Anxiety festival. The exhibition, Archives of Feeling, explores how creativity can be used to reclaim complex experiences of distress, depression and trauma. It is a complex exhibition, but an incredibly important one."
With Claire Liersch, Collections Manager at Shepparton Art Museum.
"Every day presents a new challenge and the ability to be flexible, keep calm and carry on are essential. Creating networks within the sector to draw on expertise outside of your organisation and to create knowledge sharing opportunities are also a great advantage."
With Emma Neale, Collection Manager at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA).
"At MUMA, we are delving deep into the particularities of collecting performance art, as well as ephemeral and experiential works that often defy traditional systems of categorisation, documentation and preservation."
With Mark Hislop, Installation and Facility Coordinator at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.
"In today’s workplaces the ‘soft skills’ are crucial. Critical thinking, good communication and adaptability go a long way towards building better teamwork, efficiency and ultimately higher productivity. Managing multiple projects simultaneously with a solid understanding of materials, systems and techniques are important in a technical role."
With Pip Minney, Exhibitions Manager at Geelong Gallery.
"Essentially, I am a project manager for art exhibitions – using creative problem-solving as well as continuously improving processes, my role is to oversee all the logistics aspects of an exhibition’s development and delivery, which then allows others to focus on their jobs."
With Melissa Bedford, Education and Audience Development at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA).
"Museums like MUMA strive to be at the forefront - speculating about new futures and ways of making and doing things in the world. This makes them incredibly exciting places to be as new ideas springboard into action, but they can also have the affect of unsettling the status quo and catalysing communities to question, debate, interrogate and construct new paradigms and shared meanings."
With Helen Berwick, Education & Community Engagement Officer at Bayside Gallery.
"There are so many benefits for students visiting galleries! Participation in gallery programs allows students to learn outside of the classroom and the screen, to engage with real life art works. Participation in gallery education programs helps develop critical thinking, communication skills, diplomacy, empathy, emotional IQ, language, and visual literacy."
With Mark Orlandi, Marketing & Audience Engagement Officer at Bendigo Art Gallery.
"One of the biggest challenges for public galleries is to adapt to the increasingly digital nature of the art world. As more and more people consume art through digital channels, galleries must find ways to engage with their audiences online while also maintaining the value of physical exhibitions."
With Stacey Barnes, Marketing Coordinator at Hamilton Gallery
"People are at the heart of everything in the arts. Marketing is about understanding individual’s needs and wants, forging authentic connections and building communities around your brand, so I think #1 is a genuine curiosity and regard for fellow humans and what they care about."
With Leon van de Graaff, Gallery Attendant at Counihan Gallery
"Helping artists realise their creative vision, especially when they come in with an open mind or when they find their initial idea isn’t going to be possible. Discussing the concepts behind their artwork/exhibition and helping manifest them into a physical reality is a great thing to be part of."
With Christopher Miller, Senior Gallery Technician at Latrobe Regional Gallery
"Every time an exhibition is installed I still get the thrill of seeing it completed and appreciating the work that has gone into the install. It truly is a group effort to deliver an exhibition that the public can often take for granted. People will view an exhibition and simply marvel at (or criticise) the works of an artist, there often isn’t consideration into the careful selection and choices made by curators, or hours of work put into all technical aspects of an exhibition."
With Kali Michailidis, Development and Fundraising Officer at TarraWarra Museum of Art
"Fundraising and development really is the unsung hero of the art world. I don’t think anyone dreams of becoming a fundraiser, but if you are interested in how to create and support a thriving arts sector, then it could be the role for you."
The Public Galleries Association of Victoria (PGAV) acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the lands where our office is located, and all Traditional Owners of country throughout Victoria and Australia. We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples enduring traditions and continuing creative cultures. We pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging.