Career pathways: Adult Programmes Officer

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My name is Doris Pearce and I’m the adult programmes officer here at the National Portrait Gallery.
Q. What does your job involve?
My day to day job, apart from answering the phone and emails, is to program, organise and deliver the programme for everyone over the age of eighteen, the public programme.
Q. What activities does this involve?
Everything from free gallery talks to lunchtime lectures in the lecture theatre, to weekend long workshops, to conferences to DJs in the evening. So, everything, basically. Everything you can think of.
Q. What was your career path?
I originally thought I was going to be an artist or a designer. I come from a really creative family and I did my art foundation, really fun, happy, ooh, this is great. But then I when to the London College of Printing (which is now the London College of Communication) and they were quite pleased with how difficult it was to get into, and I got there and looked around, and thought, “I don’t like this at all.” In fact, I really hated it. There’s nothing wrong with graphic designers or typography, fine, but it just wasn’t for me. So I went in and I spoke to me tutors, which is always a good idea (kids, speak to your tutors) and they said, we think you should do art history. I said, “Ooh, but that’s for posh people,” “No, no,” they said. They told me to look at two universities, one, of which is Courtauld, and the other is the University of Essex and I thought they were joking, because I’m from the Suffolk/Essex border, and it was my local University, and I used to go and get drunk there when I was a teenager. Courthauld is for posh people and it wasn’t for me, and University of Essex let me in and they did a degree in Modern Art History which sounds like it doesn’t make sense, but it was Modern art from 1900 up to the present day. I got into the second year, I did two years there, I loved it, and then I managed to get my dad to pay my fees for my masters, so I did a masters as well, meanwhile, when I came back to Essex to do my degree, I rang up one of my tutors who taught me in my art foundation and said, “Everything’s gone a bit weird, I love my foundation but I don’t do practical stuff anymore.” I suppose it was just conversational, really but about a month later he rang me and asked me to teach on the art foundation, which illegal, don’t know if you could do that now, I haven’t got a teaching qualification, but I ended up teaching foundation students basic principles of artistic enquiry, I suppose, like do a drawing with a wrong hand, eyes shut, cut up some newspapers, make me some typography. And I really enjoyed that. I did that for about five years, and then they made me to a PGCE and I really didn’t like that and I can be really quite contrary and it really brought out the worst in me. So I decided I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. I started applying for jobs in galleries, and I didn’t get anywhere. But then I did an internship at Tate Britain, working with the youth program. I’ve always had a soft spot for teenagers. So I was working with the youth programs at Tate Britain as an intern, and I carried on teaching so I could earn and work for free at the same time. They put me on a really rubbish contract where they could employ me for one day a year, and I took it with open arms. And then they asked me to apply to me an administrator, which wasn’t quite what I fantasised about when I was a little girl, but I decided to do it anyway. The good thing about working at the arts, regardless of gender, is that there are a lot of women, and they tend to get pregnant, and then maternity cover contracts come up, and that’s how I got to be an assistant curator in the Learning Department at the Tate Britain and when the person came back from their maternity cover they created a new post for me, and I managed to start looking after Late at Tate Britain, which is a monthly late night event, as well as other elements of the programme, worked with some really great people. I kind of felt after three years of knocking around there it was time to move on. I saw an advert for the National Portrait Gallery. I got the job and here I am.
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