The Gallery offers a variety of volunteer-guided free tours, the aim of which is to provide access to the Gallery and the Collection for all community members, to share information and to encourage engagement with the artworks on display.
Tours are also specifically designed to enhance and facilitate the Gallery experience of visitors with disability. Guides invariably take pleasure in optimising the visitor’s experience and undertake additional training to prepare tours to address specific needs. For more than a decade, the Gallery has provided Deaf visitors with Auslan-interpreted tours. These tours are scheduled for the last Sunday of each month, when the guide is accompanied by a qualified interpreter. Each tour has a different focus, with content often reflecting the exhibition schedule. We also offer a changing program of monthly tours for visitors who are hard of hearing. Suitable for small groups, visitors with a Cochlear implant, hearing aid or hearing loss are provided with assistive listening devices. In 2011, the Gallery began offering audio-described tours for visitors who are blind or who have low vision. These tours, which are available on request, offer a narrated description of the visual elements of artworks and often include a tactile component.
Following the success of a pilot program conducted in 2014, the Gallery now offers guided tours designed for visitors who live with dementia. These discussion-based tours for small groups, couples and families use the Gallery’s relaxed atmosphere to their advantage. Tours give participants an opportunity for unhurried conversation and companionship, stimulated by their shared experience of selected artworks, all enable by the commitment and enthusiasm of our volunteer guides.
The Gallery is fortunate to have more than 110 trained guides, all of whom are keen to share their knowledge and passion with our visitors. Since the establishment of the Volunteer Guides Program in 1981, ten trainee programs have taken place. Intakes occur on a needs basis, and prospective guides undergo intensive training prior to being accepted. Once they are part of the team, guides undertake extensive research to keep up to date with the works and themes of the Gallery’s exhibition program — this also creates the opportunity for a friendly catch-up over coffee! The shared challenges and joys of being a volunteer guide, together with participation in an ongoing learning program, study groups, excursions and extension activities, have formed the basis of many lasting friendships. The most recent intake was in February this year, and 28 enthusiastic trainees are currently immersed in the guide program, developing their skills and knowledge. We anticipate the next intake in 2017-18.
The Gallery’s goal to become the leading institution for the contemporary art of Australia, Asia and the Pacific has seen a huge expansion of both the Collection and the exhibition program, alongside the establishment of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) in 1993 and the opening of GOMA in 2006. Through their interpretation of ideas and perspectives, and their discussion with Gallery visitors, the guides play a vital role in the Gallery’s accessibility. To their tours they bring not only knowledge and passion but also a wide range of interests, experiences, a rich diversity of skills and depth of talent — all ingredients that create an engaging art experience.
The Gallery’s volunteer guides are collectively proud of their achievements, having enriched the experiences of many thousands of visitors over the last 34 years. The Queensland Art Gallery certainly values their unique contribution and looks forward to their continuing involvement in the future.
For further information about the volunteer guide program or guided tours send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website.
Susan Rothnie is Volunteer Guide Training Officer and Helen Bovey is Program Officer (Access), QAGOMA