Pippa Sanderson is radiant when she greets me in her new office. The night before, the former volunteer fundraiser for Volunteer Wellington, spearheaded her first forum for Arts Access Aotearoa which she joined a couple of months before as Community Development Advisor and Events Co-ordinator.
‘Arts for All’, the second in a series of gatherings discussing art space accessibility for disabled audiences, for whom Arts Access caters, was a success. ‘We had to split the crowd in two as we weren’t expecting that many people!,’ Pippa beams.
Pippa spent the past 20 years freelancing as a multimedia visual artist, teacher, and independent curator. After working from home, on her own schedule, the prospect of fitting into a rigid work environment was rather intimidating to her. Yet the unpredictability and the weariness of having to generate her own projects all the time pushed her to look for a full-time position. Relying on her project management and fundraising skills, she aimed to shift from the fine art side of the arts field to the community development sector. ‘I love creating opportunities for people to meet and share resources,’ she says.
Volunteering was instrumental in easing this transition. For a few weeks, she wrote funding applications for Volunteer Wellington and acted as a mentor to the Refugee Services fundraiser. ‘The value I found in coming to Volunteer Wellington was to experience the feeling of an unfamiliar workspace. Then the overwhelming flow of information wasn’t as scary when I went through my actual introduction week at work. I would really recommend it.’
Getting used to PCs (she uses Mac at home) and to someone else’s filing system was like a rehearsal. Another advantage she found in volunteering in a workplace – rather than her homeplace – was the opportunity to use her skills and be in a position to receive external feedback; something she missed as an independent.
During this volunteering time Pippa proved to be a ‘good team player’. This observation gave Pauline Harper from Volunteer Wellington plenty to talk about when she acted as her referee. Pippa was also surprised by the strong networking aspect which happens in a well-connected workplace. ‘You almost can’t help it,’ she says. And it comes full circle as she is now encouraging her new employer to become a community member of Volunteer Wellington.
Story and Photography by Cécile Lepage