By Emma Hamill, AGGV Visitor Experience Supervisor, and Volunteer Coordinator
Last March as we geared up to have our annual volunteer appreciation events and celebrations, COVID-19 got in the way and brought our volunteer program to a halt. With over 400 volunteers who help with our initiatives and programming annually, we miss this community. Our volunteers, like many across the world, have been displaced. Volunteers who have been with us for over 25 years decided that it was now the time to retire. Many other volunteers decided it was best to social distance and stay home.
COVID-19 has made our mission to help make memories and find fulfilling positions for our volunteers difficult. The TD Art Gallery Paint In, one of our longest standing community events, usually requiring upwards of 200 volunteers, went virtual. We have many volunteers that return each year to make this event possible, and their spirit and passion are deeply missed.
As we begin to bring back our volunteers, we have precautions in place to ensure everyone’s safety. While we are slowly re-introducing volunteers, with only a handful back on site, we have an opportunity to look at our programs and see where volunteers are needed most. Our volunteers have helped us overcome many obstacles over the past 11 months. Not only did our Family Sunday volunteers help to create art making kits for families across Greater Victoria to engage in our virtual programming, but they hand-delivered these kits to families’ doors! Volunteers have helped us remotely by providing excellent articles for our AGGV e-magazine and researching our collections. And a few have returned to the Gallery, volunteering in the Gift shop, Library, and as office support. Our board has continued to put the Gallery first and lead us through unprecedented times. The Gallery Associates have spent endless hours adapting to the changes the pandemic has brought with grace and professionalism, raising thousands of dollars for the Gallery through the online House Tour and Lecture Series. We are lucky to have committed volunteers, who even during a global pandemic, show up.
As we look forward to the year ahead, we cannot wait to have volunteers return. We look forward to the hustle and bustle of a monthly Associates meeting, the excitement of orientating new volunteers, celebrating our volunteers’ achievements, the laughter in the mansion from a Family Sunday, and of course the music and chatter of an Urbanite event. It may not ever be the same, but this time has allowed us to reflect and appreciate all the work our volunteers have done over our nearly 70 years as an organization. The Gallery is a place so many call home, and soon enough it will feel like that again as our volunteers and art community get together again.
Thank you for all you do, if you are interested in new opportunities at the Gallery please do not hesitate to contact email@example.com.
Original article from the Gallery Associates Happenings newsletter, Feb/Mar issue of Happenings – Vol 8 No 4., Joan Shimizu, Editor, and Charlene Brown, Editor, Layout & Production.