Scotland + Venice 2019 Professional Development Programme participants from left to right: Isaac Stanesby, Thomas Abercromby, Katheryne Morrison, Lauren Ferguson, Emma Blackhall, Courtney Barr, Maria Oliver Smith, Foxy, Eleanor Beale, Grace Carroll. Standing left to right: Soorin Shin, Aki Hassan, Harvey Dimond, Aisling Ward, Frances Driscoll, Kaya Fraser, Jenny Sprenger.  ©

Photo credit: Alan Dimmick

Scotland + Venice is a partnership between British Council, Creative Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland which takes new work from Scotland to the prestigious Venice Biennale art festival.

A key part of Scotland’s presentation in Venice is the Professional Development programme which offers students and recent graduates from across Scotland a unique opportunity to live in Venice for one month and work as Exhibition Assistants. The programme aims to provide a unique learning and professional development opportunity for 14 students and 3 graduates and in 2019, for the first time, it supported individuals from outside formal education, to remove barriers and broaden participation.

In January this year we invited the 17 participating individuals to come together to reflect on the experience so partners could learn what worked well and what could be improved for the future. We also provided an opportunity for them to share highlights of their time living and working in Venice with their sponsor organisations through short presentations.

In describing their time in Venice, the participants commonly depicted the experience as 'intense', 'educational', 'exciting', 'challenging', 'unforgettable', 'incredible' and 'amazing'.  These characterisations speak loudly of the value to each individual participant from the programme.

Consistent themes which emerged through group reflection were of the capacity to build relationships and professional networks, leading in some cases to new collaborative work; the opportunity to experience other cultures; the chance to develop their own practice as artists and/or curators; and the confidence-building element of the experience.

Not all the participants were able to attend the evaluation event but one of them, Frances Driscoll, had the ingenuity to create a film documenting her experience in lieu of attending.

We found it to be such a beautiful, evocative and creative piece illustrating the value of the Scotland+Venice Professional Development Programme and Frances has kindly given her permission for us to share it.  You can access the film here.

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