Catrina Barquist (from Hawick) spent a memorable 5 weeks in Venice during the summer after being selected at the start of the year as a student ambassador for the 57th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.

The festival, which counts celebrities and high profile artists among its visitors, this year featured 120 artists from every country across the world, supported by student ambassadors from the corresponding country.  Catrina provided support at Scottish Artist Rachel Maclean’s controversial ‘Spite Your Face’ exhibition (a film responding to significant changes in the political climate, starring a Pinocchio-esque figure) located in the beautiful Santa Caterina church.  She witnessed first-hand the process of bringing art to the public, visualising how an exhibition should take shape. 

Part of Catrina’s role was to greet visitors, requiring her to learn a little Italian to be able to communicate effectively – fortunately, she made a local contact who helped her pick up some of the language quickly!  She also carried out paid research, delivering her findings in the form of weekly Facebook vlogs, as well as a one week ‘takeover’ on the Scotland + Venice Instagram account reporting on what interested her.

Catrina describes her trip as a true networking experience, with fellow student ambassadors hosting regular parties, including a picnic on the beach with German and American participants.  Throughout the 5 weeks, Catrina resided on The Lido with another student as well as a more senior team member, Claire Hills, who works as a Gallery Assistant at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh.

Upon her return to College, Catrina shared her experiences with her classmates in a class talk, bringing back further inspiration in the form of leaflets and promotional materials from each of the exhibitions she attended.

When asked what her advice would be if this opportunity came up again for a Borders College student, Catrina would advise students to apply for it even if they were nervous and thought they couldn’t do it, adding:

“It builds a lot of skills and confidence as well as work experience.  It’s not easy to live in another country alone, but it teaches you a lot about who you are and what you can do.”

Initially intending to use the opportunity as a way to gain Assistant Curator experience, Catrina’s time in Venice, where she enjoyed making comparisons between traditional and contemporary art, and the contacts she made there, gave her a better understanding of other positions, sparking her interest in potentially working as an Invigilator:

“Being able to see some of the best contemporary art from across the world was inspiring and will help me to progress my own work, and ultimately progress within the art industry.”

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