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The University of Southampton
Winchester School of ArtPostgraduate study

Elspeth Williams MA Contemporary Curation, 2017

Engagement Curator at John Hansard Gallery

Elspeth Williams's Photo

Winchester is a lovely place to study. The parks and green areas of Winchester right next to WSA are lovely to study in. Despite being a small city it’s a good place to socialise – everyone ends up in the same pub!

The community of students and staff at the school is small and there is a collaborative and creative atmosphere as everyone gets to know each other. I lived in Southampton and commuted to study, but the transport links are so quick so that was never a problem. Being so close to Southampton you have the benefit of 3 brilliant art galleries, and a lot of other stuff going on in the bigger city.

As well as the critical reading, research, and lectures on relevant topics, the practical experience gained at WSA has been invaluable. During my degree we curated two exhibitions in small groups, as well as assisting with exhibitions at the Winchester Gallery. The hands on experience built up my confidence, skills, and professionalism.

After finishing my degree, I undertook a two-month Excel Internship (a scheme run by the University of Southampton) at the John Hansard Gallery. Following the internship I worked at the Gallery for a further six months to assist with the Engagement Programme, and I’m now working as an Engagement Curator with scope to apply for a permanent position in the near future.

Gallery education and engagement is something I became interested in while studying at WSA, and was a recurring focus of my research and personal interests. Throughout the course we had a range of incredible visiting lecturers from all areas of Curating. It was a seminar with the ex-Head of Learning at Tate Britain, Felicity Allen, and the accompanying reading, which first sparked my interest in pursuing gallery education as a profession.

In my job, I get to work with people across many different fields. I am able to think about alternative forms of learning for visitors of the gallery, and get to enjoy the events myself! The organisation is particularly unique as we are part of the University of Southampton; we have reached out and collaborated with professionals and academics from literature, music, physics and environmental science. I get to think of ways to create fun, interesting and interactive cross-disciplinary events that enable the public to engage with contemporary art, and I am constantly learning myself!

My advice to those wishing to study MA Contemporary Curation is to try as much as you can to take advantage of internship and other work experience opportunities. Any experience is useful, even if it seems like something you’re not quite interested in. The experiences, contacts and relationships I made from such opportunities is what led me to my current role.

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