Volunteer Spotlight: Kacey Stonnell

Posted on 24 April 2024

This month, in a slight change to our regular Volunteer Spotlight series, we have asked Kacey Stonnell, who is undertaking a placement at Castlefield Gallery, to share her experience with us.

Kacey will be delivering a presentation with two other History of Art students from The University of Manchester on Thursday 2 May, 6-8pm at Castlefield Gallery. Together they will explore the artworks and backgrounds of the artists exhibiting in 40 Years of the Future: Painting. Book your tickets here

Hi Kacey! Tell us a little about yourself. When did you start your placement with Castlefield Gallery?

I am a second-year Art History and English Literature student at the University of Manchester. I am also an Employability Champion for the university. This role allowed me to speak to arts and heritage industry professionals with varying backgrounds, and one of the ‘top tips’ I got from each person I spoke to was to take every opportunity that came my way. So, when my lecturers started circulating placement opportunities at Castlefield Gallery, I had to take the opportunity. In late January of 2024, I began my curatorial placement at Castlefield Gallery.

What made you want to do a placement here?

Aside from recognising this was an invaluable opportunity, I was also excited by the gallery’s history. When I was an Employability Champion, the mammoth task I gave myself was to try to de-mystify the art world. Careers in the art world are never really advertised at careers fairs, and those giant museums and galleries that sit all over the city almost feel like they have impenetrable walls. What attracted me to Castlefield was the history of the gallery. I knew an artist association formed it, and when I looked further into the gallery, I saw that those roots of artist development were still crucial to the gallery. Knowing how closely the gallery works with its artists made the concept of a curatorial placement much more exciting. I walked into this placement knowing that I would get to work with people in a space that is geared towards people. Castlefield Gallery never felt mysterious; it felt like the gallery walls were down, and it was happy to show people what the art world looked like.

What’s your favourite thing about working with Castlefield Gallery?

The variety of opportunities available here and how unbelievably unpredictable each day is. On my very first day, I was so stressed about what to wear. I only really had one pair of jeans and a nice jumper. So I turned up, terrified that I looked unprofessional, only to walk in through the door and immediately begin carrying bags of mortar, bricks, and wooden planks. Every day is different here. Some days, we’re setting up and taking down exhibitions; others, I’m rustling their archive. The opportunities that come from this, though, are amazing. The other placements and I can run an event with our own budget as part of the placement. This has enabled us to reach out to the artists who are part of the current 40 Years of the Future: Painting exhibition to deliver a really insightful event. I don’t think I ever really pictured myself speaking to many artists, attending many exhibition openings, or running an event at Castlefield Gallery. Only through this placement have I begun to understand the scope of the art world and what role I can one day play in it. I can also proudly say that I now know how to use an electric drill, and honestly, that’s an achievement.

What would you say to the students who will do a placement with Castlefield Gallery in the future?

Being on this placement is a fantastic opportunity, and you will get out of it as much effort as you put in. The team here truly cares about your growth and will give you all the tools to succeed. You need to take complete advantage of that. If there’s anything I learned from being an Employability Champion, it is that people want to help students, and the staff at Castlefield Gallery have confirmed that. It isn’t a long placement, but I have been given tools that will stay with me for a very long time. Really make the most of your time here; it will be entirely worth it.

Image: Kacey in front of Jamie Kirk’s painting Living Room (2024)