Last week on Twitter, I followed some really interesting conversations under the hashtag #AskACuratorDay. This reminded me of Angela, our lovely colleague from Seville in Spain who is not only part of our team here at Tti but is also a former student and she has just successfully completed a in MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Art. So I decided to ask our very own curator, alumni and colleague how she has has achieved her goal and #madeithappen!
Angie, when and why did you first come to UK? I first arrived in the UK in the summer 2009 to learn English at Tti and to look for a job here in London and go forward in my professional career. It was an adventure that changed my life, always in a positive way, making me learn from bad and good experiences, and helped me to grow professionally and personally.
Was it always your objective to become a curator and if not what changed your mind? No, my first objective was not to become a curator. I studied fashion design in Spain, with the intention of pursuing a career as a designer. Once I finished my studies I had the opportunity to work within this field and the reality of the fashion industry pushed me away. This made me focus on other aspects of design such as costume design for theatre and performance, where I could truly develop my creativity and my skills as a designer. Simultaneously, I started another degree in History of Art in my free time, which was a great source of inspiration as a designer and another step closer to the art world, which I have always been passionate about. The decision to become a curator came around 2 years ago, as a result of my constantly being in contact with museums and galleries when researching for my design projects. I have always been very interested in historical collections of dress and fashion, and how they are interpreted and exhibited in the museum or gallery. This was the reason why I decided to orientate my career path in this direction.
How did you research the course that you took at Chelsea and what was the application process? When I was clear about the MA that I wanted to do, the next step was to find the right place that offered the the type of course which suited my needs. I researched on Google and read feedback and comments about different universities. I also attended the open days that they have, where they explain the content of the courses and the options to apply. Once I was sure about the college I wanted to go to, I completed the online application form, which included a specific covering letter and a CV. As a European student whose native language was not English, I was required to score a minimum of 6.5 in IELTS, but you do not need to add this qualification until the end of your application, and only once they have accepted you as a student and you are going to enrol, about a month prior the classes start. Different universities have diverse acceptance requirements, such as your previous education and the marks that you get. Also, the IELTS exam score may vary depending on the university or level of studies that you are applying for. Generally speaking, all universities require you to have between 6.5 and 7.0 in IELTS to do a Master’s and a previous BA Degree in a subject which is somehow related to the MA. As my application was successful, I was told to attend a personal interview with the director of the MA, which was the last step to be accepted at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. After the interview, I received a formal letter confirming that I was accepted for that MA in that University. I also applied for a scholarship. London is not a cheap place to live, especially being a student. People normally think that not being English could be a problem to receive a scholarship, but as I was told during the open day at Chelsea College of Arts, it is a very realistic option. As I had nothing to loose, I tried and I got it. I was very lucky to get a discount of 50% of the fees! The only thing I had to do was fill in a form and send evidence of my annual income.
Can you tell me a little about your course? My course was called MA Curating and Collections. It is a full time course, although we had classes only 3 days a week, and the rest of the week was dedicated to individual research time. This may seem pretty relaxed, but the truth is that the amount of work that you are expected to do is overwhelming and I had to organise my time very carefully in order to meet deadlines whilst working part time at Tti! The MA is only one year long and the content is equivalent to other 2 year-long Master’s. The content of the MA included a wide range of aspects related to the tasks of a curator. I had to research within my chosen field (fashion and historical dress) to develop my dissertation, which is related to the curatorial concerns in regards of the display and presentation of the fashion collection at the V&A Museum. I also had lectures and critique sessions every week, including practical classes about installing exhibitions (this included art handling, materials to make displays and usage of tools, drills, etc). I co-curated several projects during my MA with the rest of my peers, including one exhibition of archival objects from the Jocalyn Herbert Archive at the National Theatre. Furthermore, I co-curated an external exhibition, Use/User/Used, with other students of the same MA from different Universities as part of the Testing Ground for Arts and Education at Zabludowicz Collection. I also developed a number of hypothetical curatorial projects related to my area of research. For example, I presented a project for an exhibition whose aim was to show the costumes of the working classes in London inside an Underground train, presenting the evolution of the interior design of the trains since 1863 alongside the type of customers and their outfits. I also presented other exhibitions related to fashion: a flamenco dress exhibition and a Disney princesses exhibition. We were expected to be very innovative and accurate in our proposals, based on our practical knowledge and supported by a theoretical rationale which reflects our critical thinking. One of the advantages of this MA was the opportunity to assist the Director of Exhibitions at Chelsea Space (an art gallery situated within the College) to curate and install the exhibitions that took place there. We could also use different spaces within the university to curate individual exhibitions and we had to curate at least one exhibition every term, as part of the practical experience that we were supposed to obtain. Another advantage was that this college owns a special collection to which the students have access. We could take out on loan original artworks which are invaluable to curate our exhibitions. This was an excellent opportunity to grow as curators and get confident when dealing with original pieces of art that belong to a collection.
Now you have successfully completed your course, I guess you will be looking for a job as a curator? Can you tell me what a curator does exactly? I would like to start working as a curator as soon as possible. However, this path is not easy. There is a lot of competition in London and important institutions such as the V&A Museum or Tate Modern are hard nuts to crack. It is essential to have work experience and very specific education in the subject to have the opportunity to work for them, even as an intern. Finishing your Master’s and having a good training is not enough, and previous work experience in other galleries seems to be essential to be called for an interview. A curator is the motor of an exhibition: a curator organises the exhibition around a subject or philosophical idea, select the artworks, negotiates and looks after the artists that work for him, an interprets his art for a general audience, focusing on delivering the right message that the artists intend to create through his artworks. As Hans Ulrich Obrist, one of the most eminent figures in curating and the Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, said, ‘I see a curator as a catalyst, generator and motivator – a sparring partner, accompanying the artist while they build a show, and a bridge builder, creating a bridge to the public’
Thank you so much Angie! All the way from an English course at Tti School of English to a MA at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL! You made it happen! for more details about the courses we offer take a look at our website www.ttischool.com