A colourful night of volunteer acknowledgement at the NGV

Generous alumni volunteers at the University of Melbourne provide irreplaceable support and knowledge to our community each year, empowering students and alumni to reach their potential.

To celebrate and recognise their impactful contributions, the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces Alumni Reception was held on 22 August.

More than 900 volunteers and guests gathered at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to mingle, learn more about the impact of their volunteer contributions, and enjoy the exhibition Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi from the NGV’s Winter Masterpieces series.

The exhibition showcases the work of one of the most celebrated painters of the twentieth century, Pierre Bonnard, with the immersive experience designed by French architect India Mahdavi.

Attendees mingling at the NGV volunteer thank you event.Attendees mingling at the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces Alumni Reception.

President of the Alumni Council and Ask Alumni mentor Jane Wayland was excited to attend the exhibition.

“The Winter Masterpieces in Melbourne have become a huge cultural focal point each year, and I think it’s an amazing opportunity to attend this exhibition in a dedicated group, knowing we all have something in common,” said Jane.

Melbourne Peer Mentor Alexander Hopper noted the diversity of the volunteers in attendance on the night.

“Every kind of demographic you can imagine, everyone’s here enjoying the art. It’s wonderful.”

Recognising valuable support

As volunteers arrived, they caught up and mingled over drinks within the stunning interior of the NGV.

Vice Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell spoke to the audience about the University’s commitment to arts and culture in Melbourne.

“The University’s important partnership with the NGV is one of several ways that the University of Melbourne seeks to show its strong commitment to the arts,” said Professor Maskell.

He went on to thank attendees for their dedication to enriching the lives of the University’s student and alumni community.

Vice Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell addressing attendees. Vice Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell addressing alumni volunteers in attendance.

“What we are seeking to do as a university is provide a first-class student experience and to prepare our students to step out and make their contribution in the world,” said Professor Maskell.

“The positive and heartfelt feedback from students who benefit from your volunteer support is very clear, and tonight we want to tell you that we truly appreciate your ongoing support and connection with the University as part of its community.”

Professor Maskell then handed over to Senior Curator of International Art at the NGV Dr Ted Gott who introduced the exhibition and spoke to its conception.

“What makes this exhibition particularly special and indeed, unlike any other Bonnard exhibition that has come before, is the outstanding exhibition design by Iranian-born and Paris-based architect and designer India Mahdavi,” shared Dr Gott.

“Her passion for utilising colour, texture and form to elicit certain memories and emotions, paired with her deep appreciation of Bonnard’s practice, made her a natural and authentic choice to create the scenography for this exhibition.”

Expert insights

After the introductory speeches, the gallery doors opened, and attendees began making their way through the vibrant exhibition rooms and passageways.

A special addition to the gallery experience for volunteers were floor talks from University of Melbourne experts, giving further context and meaning to Bonnard and Mahdavi’s work.

Chair of Architectural Design at the Melbourne School of Design Professor Donald Bates spoke to the furnishings throughout the exhibition that create a “quasi-domestic environment” unlike many other gallery spaces.

“These artworks would've been acquired by collectors who wanted these in their homes, so this part of the exhibition is trying to bring us back to the time when these artworks were produced,” said Professor Bates.

Research Fellow and Teaching Associate from the Faculty of Arts (School of Culture and Communication) Dr Jane Eckett relayed how Bonnard’s work marked a departure from nineteenth-century painting conventions.

Dr Jane Eckett giving a floor talk inside the Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi exhibition.Dr Jane Eckett giving a floor talk inside the Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi exhibition.

“Artists such as Bonnard were slowly doing away with the traditional perspective that might give us the illusion that we're just looking through a window,” said Dr Eckett.

“This idea of traditional Renaissance perspective was slowly being eroded in these works; Bonnard was playing visual tricks and drawing our attention to the flatness of the canvas.”

Benefits and motivations

Aside from enjoying the unique gallery experience, volunteers in attendance also enjoyed exchanging stories on why they are passionate about giving unique learning opportunities to those within the University community.

Angie Zhang volunteered as a guest speaker at the Melbourne Business School’s Dean’s Honours List celebration because she enjoys staying connected with the University and felt that opportunities to directly “give back” were lacking in her corporate role.

“Being able to interact closely with the students as well as their families has been very rewarding, especially hearing their feedback that my speech was able to reaffirm or challenge their thinking,” said Angie.

Grand Challenges program mentor Ariel Flores feels proud to have helped his student mentees gain practical industry experience.

“Some were in biomedical engineering, others were mathematical, and some were in other scientific and creative courses,” said Ariel.

“The fact that they came together and created something that improved client satisfaction and also gave them a real-world experience, I think that was very beneficial.”

President of the Alumni Council Jane Wayland relished the opportunity to connect with fellow alumni at the reception, in part to help guide her future volunteering endeavours.

“I’m excited to find out what all these people are doing with their roles as volunteers and discover how we can make better connections across the community for the benefit of both alumni and students,” said Jane.

Reflecting on the positive energy emanating from those in attendance on the night, Jane shared her enthusiasm for the ongoing impact that the volunteer community will have on students and alumni alike.

“There’s more than 900 people here and we’re only a small sample of everyone that volunteers at the University,” said Jane.

“I learn a lot from the one-to-one connections I make through the Alumni Council, and it really enriches my life.”

Learn more about how you can volunteer and make a difference at the University of Melbourne.

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