Back in 2008, I was nearing completion of a Masters in Museum Studies and began to seriously consider where my then career path was leading. I was looking for an opportunity to unite my work experience (I was a manager at two restaurants at the time), what I was studying, and the knowledge I had obtained reading for a BA (Hons) History of Art with my love of visiting art galleries and museums. I had recently bought a house in York Region and began investigating opportunities to volunteer. This led me to the Varley Art Gallery. I met Sue Firkser, who was the Education Coordinator at the time, and we hit it off. I began volunteering as a docent. I immediately felt a sense of belonging and would try whatever I could to fit docent shifts into my crazy schedule while managing the work-study- life balance.
A few months later, a part-time opportunity as an Information Service Attendant was available and I quickly transitioned into this new role. I began to really see how popular the gallery’s public programs were. I met members of the community who were enthusiastic about art education, from the curious beginner to the advanced learner and even the professional artists who taught these classes.
Soon after, I heard about the full-time Volunteer Coordinator opportunity with the Varley-McKay Art Foundation of Markham. The role involved managing the overall volunteer program for the Foundation’s fundraising events as well as the Varley Art Gallery’s programs and events. I thought there couldn’t have been a better opportunity for me to merge all I was doing with all I had done and lead me along the path to my lifelong dream of being a museum professional. I was thrilled when I was hired. The nerves quickly crept in as it was then only 3 weeks to what was the Foundation’s largest fundraiser. I was thrown right into the fire but with the incredible support of the gallery staff and with the volunteer team backing me and cheering me on, I quickly settled in and was instantly hooked.
Over time, the role evolved into Development Officer with a greater focus on raising important funds. I am proud to be able to say that thanks to my efforts, the efforts of the board of directors, and the amazing work of our volunteers, we support gallery’s education programs, art acquisitions, the conservation of the gallery’s collection and still oversee the continuously growing volunteer program!
I encourage you to stop by the Varley Art Gallery, ask questions, learn more and get involved in what this gem of a gallery is doing in your community.