It’s Game-On for volunteering at ACMI

You’re absolutely crazy about film and digital art forms. You feel like volunteering to contribute, be in amongst the action or build up an arts resume. So where are film freaks and digital gamers welcomed for volunteering roles at any age, life stage and actually valued for their quirkiness? Why not head to Federation Square and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).

When it comes to a volunteering position in the arts sector, ACMI is one of the most coveted organisations. ACMI never has to put the word out for volunteers. Volunteers flock to ACMI in throngs. Currently it has around 100 volunteers in mostly front of house and visitor services roles.

Volunteering at ACMI

ACMI’s Volunteer Program Manager, the charming Allison Parsons, told me that ACMI’s front-of-house volunteers have an ambassadorial role. They are empowered to interact
with visitors in a natural way utilizing their innate authentic personalities while maintaining a professional standard.

“We don’t script standard responses. We don’t disallow new ideas. We encourage individualism,” said Allison who has been working at ACMI since its inception in 2002.

Looking back she is pleased to have made her big career move.

‘As soon as I stepped into ACMI I felt challenged, about to start an interesting journey. I’d left behind a highly structured workplace at Melbourne Museum and was now thrown into a futurist brand new organisation where many things were possible,” she said as we sat outside at the ACMI café enjoying coffees in the late summer sun.

At first she was looking to forge a stronger connection with the visual arts because as a practicing artist, that’s also been part of her background. But Allison’s other goal was to keep working with volunteers and after two years’ service at ACMI, the opportunity arose for her to take up the volunteer manager position.

“I was now able to ‘marry’ my love of the arts with my career in volunteer management,” she said.

ACMI volunteers need to have a storehouse of energy to chat to crowds of visitors including posses of school groups and be welcoming at all times. They need to open their minds occasionally to newbie genres and eccentric exhibitions and take them on with a positive attitude. Oh and yes, they have to be broad-minded, unbiased, friendly yet professional. Is this a tough ask? Not for our focus volunteer, the flamboyant Pinky Watson, a veteran of ten years volunteering at ACMI.

Now meet ACMI volunteer Pinky Watson

Originally from the US, Pinky volunteered because her husband Bill had passed away and in the aftermath of grief, she was seeking a volunteering opportunity to keep busy.

“I didn’t want a full time job. I didn’t want to work in a normal museum. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to learn about digital moving art,” said Pinky who adores Melbourne’s arts and culture.

Pinky volunteered in ACMI’s visitor services for 8 years. She told me not having to hold back her open personality was a wonderful experience and she has fully enjoyed interacting with visitors from all over the world. Recently she decided she’d rather be sitting down than standing. It’s understandable. Pinky has recently turned 70. Time to ease up those limbs just a little!

Last year during the David Bowie Exhibition, there was a big hike in ACMI’s membership so Pinky transferred to volunteering for the memberships department, stuffing envelopes keeping track of new members and performing other admin tasks for Allison.

“From there I started doing meet and greet at special member screenings, so standing at the back and being perky! I engage members in chitchat about the film they have seen and make them feel comfortable and important to the organisation,” said Pinky.

She shares with me that everyone at ACMI is younger than she but says she’s learned a lot from young people about life and also about the many facets of the moving image. Along the way she’s had a to adjust to alien new digital genres.

One time when the age-gap became very challenging for her was when ACMI held the Game On Gaming Exhibition. The entire ACMI building was turned over to computer games and gamers. Pinky had no idea what it was all about. Then one of the visitor services officers on staff led her down to the exhibition, introduced her to gaming and how important it is in the digital arts arena right now. This experience had a huge effect on Pinky. She immediately developed a new perspective on this hip and happening digital art form.

“I was able to speak, I was able to instruct, I was able to show people in my age group the wonder of the modern technological gaming world. And I discovered that the images in computer games are often very beautiful,” she said.

“Everybody at ACMI is creative, unconventional and therefore accepting of people who are slightly offbeat. The staff and volunteers working here are very open to different kinds of people. Volunteering has given me a real focus to my week. It has also brought many good friends into my life,” she said.

By Volunteer Writer Lesley Sharon Rosenthal for Volunteering Victoria

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