Meet Victoria Powell – founder of The Gallery Companion

Bristol-based art history lecturer Victoria Powell talks to us about her new online project for art lovers, The Gallery Companion

What is The Gallery Companion?

It is a membership, with a dedicated online space where members learn more about art, grow their knowledge of artists, and discuss what it all means. Think of it as like a book club but for art, a friendly space to explore and discuss ideas with people who have similar interests. Our focus is on contemporary art, but we are always looking back at art from the past.

I introduce topics on different aspects of art every month, post weekly content to get members thinking about images and videos, and host interactive live zoom events in a welcoming and informal online setting. It’s really relaxed, fun, informative, inspiring. It’s a space to explore, expand, think and learn with others.

Photo: Kerensa Pickett

What led you to set it up?

My experience of university teaching inspired me to start up The Gallery Companion. I’ve been a lecturer in the history of art for over 15 years, and I’ve taught at world-leading universities and arts institutions including the University of the Arts, London and Sotheby’s Institute of Art. I want to bring the kind of discussions I have with students out of the seminar room and into the wider world. And I want to create the sort of environment where no question about art is a daft question, where you don’t have to pretend you understand what everyone’s talking about, or that you’ve heard of such-and-such famous artist.

​My aim with The Gallery Companion is to break down the barriers to art, an area of knowledge that is often seen as exclusive. It’s not. Art is our creative response to life, and it has the power to reach every single one of us. It’s something special. It makes us pause, and think. Sometimes in wonder and joy, sometimes in confusion, sometimes with annoyance, sometimes with despair.

​I’m passionate about enabling people to learn together and to have inspiring, eye-opening, penny-dropping conversations, without having to invest thousands in formal education routes.

Who is The Gallery Companion for?

The Gallery Companion’s members are diverse, from all walks of life, and from all over the world. Levels of knowledge and experience of art vary, but what matters is curiosity! The current members are a mix of artists and art-curious people looking for interesting discussions and to learn more about other artists working today. They want to get more from the art they see in galleries, or the street art they walk past, or the images everywhere around them.

What members seem to really enjoy is the sense of community and the connection that comes from having real conversations with other members. We have a number of live zoom events every month, including The Art Salon, where I’ll introduce the work of a contemporary artist and then we talk about it together.

As our numbers grow we are also planning more events, both online and in person. This year, for example, we are planning a members’ trip to visit the Venice Biennale.

Where can RWA Friends find out more?

All the info on becoming a member is on our website www.thegallerycompanion.com. There’s a two-week free trial, so you can try it out and see if it’s for you. You can also follow us on instagram @thegallerycompanion

Photo: Mahdis Mousavi

The Friends of the RWA is an independent charity that supports the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol’s first art gallery. 
For just £35 a year Friends can make unlimited visits to RWA exhibitions and enjoy a host of other benefits, as well as making an important contribution to the arts in Bristol and the South West. Find out more and join up here.

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