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.
We look at the role of Communications and Marketing Officer and speak with Stacey Barnes, Marketing Coordinator at Hamilton Gallery.
* 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
The Communications and Marketing Officer ensures an effective communications and marketing strategy is implemented. They are a skilled copywriter responsible for building organisational profile, production and delivery of all marketing collateral, including annual programs and reports, posters and catalogues. They prepare media releases, website content, e-news and promote the gallery through social media.
For information about roles within public galleries see the PGAV Fact Sheet: Staffing Levels & Position Titles
How did you get started in your career and what formal qualifications or experience do you have?
Back home in England, I worked for a PR company and freelanced in social media marketing roles whilst gaining an honours degree in English with Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. I then had a fabulous extended period travelling and working overseas before working for a visual content company in South Melbourne. Settling then in Western Victoria, I upskilled in event management and spent 5 years as Events Marketing and Development Officer for my local Council. The role was diverse and gave me experience not only in marketing events, but in attracting and developing events for broader economic development and tourism outcomes. I had opportunities to influence the sector on a state-level board, but also enjoyed working closely with local community members at a grassroots level. Now I’ve leaned into my passions for marketing and for the arts, and I’m currently looking to gain further qualifications and experience relevant to my role.
What does your role as Marketing & Audience Engagement Officer encompass?
I lead the small but dedicated team that’s responsible for all marketing, brand, content, advertising, and communications needs for both arts institutions owned by Southern Grampians Shire Council; Hamilton Gallery and the Hamilton Performing Arts Centre. This means that every day is wildly different! We could be directing a shoot, creating collateral, liaising with media, analysing data, developing publications, or negotiating partnerships and advertising. Whether we’re immersed in strategy or capturing social stories at events, we’re focussed on improving the reputation and reach of each venue and helping both to attain longer term goals.
What knowledge and skills do you think are most needed for this role?
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. A useful skill is also having the ability to nurture your creative spark and conjure novel ideas even when the ‘busy work’ needs to be done!
What are the unique challenges and opportunities for a marketer working in a public gallery?
The word ‘adaptability’ comes to mind. Things are never static, whether it’s audience sentiments or new technologies, and staying on top of changes is both a challenge and an opportunity. I try to remember to be open to new ways of doing things - it’s better to fail quickly (and cheaply) and to learn from it, than never to try anything new.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
It sounds simple, but I’m involved in events and projects that ultimately make people’s lives that little bit better. The experiences we have make life worth living, whether it’s attending a memorable exhibition, dancing the night away at a live music event or learning new skills in a creative workshop. I get to connect people with opportunities to have meaningful moments, and that – in turn - brings me joy, too.
What has been your career highlight so far?
For the gallery I’d say causing international ripples for a stained-glass exhibition and event program centred on émigré artist, John Orval, and working on Patricia Piccinini’s Skywhales launch in Dunkeld. In my previous role I attained a grant for our first ever federally funded events project- that was close to my heart, too.
Image: Patricia Piccinini, Skywhale, 2013 and Skywhalepapa, 2020, for Skywhales: Every Heart Sings, 2022, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, © Patricia Piccinini.
Image: Visitors to the exhibition Luminous: John Orval, Stained Glass Artist at Hamilton Gallery, 2022.
What are the key issues for public galleries into the future?
Funding – of course – and growing support for the arts sector amidst noise around other priorities. Galleries also need to adapt to meet the needs of all members of society now and into the future, so need to develop (and resource) spaces that serve all sectors of the community well into the future. No small feat!
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.