Tate veterans launch free—and paid—curating course, aimed at those from less-affluent backgrounds

Three former Tate experts have launched a new training course for aspiring curators from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. “A lot of people who are interested in curating don’t even try to break into it because the courses are so expensive,” said Mark Godfrey, former senior curator of international art at Tate Modern. He left the institution last year after publicly criticizing its decision to postpone the Philip Guston exhibition.

Godfrey will work on the new curator training program with two co-directors: Kerryn Greenberg, former head of Tate International Collections, and Rudi Minto de Wijs, who worked in the institution’s marketing department and served as its Black, Asia BAME Network.

Building an Inclusive Career

The cost of a master’s degree has traditionally been the minimum requirement to work as a curator at institutions such as the Tate, but for the most part this career has been restricted to people from privileged backgrounds. For example, the Royal College of Art’s Curated Contemporary Art MA course costs £14,175 for UK students and £33,600 for international students.

Both UK and international students will be able to join the New Curators course for free, and will also be provided with a London Living Wage for up to 12 participants per year to cover rent and other costs. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience can apply to participate.

Teaching will focus on all aspects of a curator’s work, from organizing exhibitions to writing curatorial statements and budget proposals. It will also prepare students for some of the challenges they may face in their careers by using real examples, such as the controversy at the latest documenta in Kassel, which included an art with anti-Semitic imagery Taste. “Students need to think about what kind of decisions they would make if they were working in these organizations: Would you cancel the job? Would you put some text? How would you respond to that situation?” Godfrey said.

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Students will meet a wide range of curators, artists and other arts professionals and will visit studios, galleries and museums in the UK and internationally. The aim is to provide them with contacts and a network of peers to help support them in their future careers.

The course will also include guidance and mental health components, preparing students for the realities of working in the field. “How do you deal with difficult artists? How do you deal with rejection? How do you deal with different environments where you meet people from different backgrounds and it’s stressful? We’re working with mental health charity Young Partner with organizations like Minds and they will help us. Mental health is an important part of building confidence and enabling you to do a good job,” Minto de Wijs said.

Institutional network

A key benefit of the course is that participants will complete the year by organizing a major performance at a major institution. First-year students who will join the program in September 2023 will curate a major exhibition at the South London Gallery the following summer. They will oversee all aspects of exhibition production, from communicating with artists to installing works, writing press materials and engaging in community outreach.

In subsequent years, exhibitions will be held at other partner institutions. The course will also include real and virtual visits to a number of relevant organisations, including the Barbican Center and Studio Voltaire in London, the Kunsthaus in Munich, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, St Paul’s Museum of Art, A4 Cape Town Art Foundation and Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE, etc.

Teaching will take place at the South London Gallery (SLG) in Camberwell, which has a long history of community outreach and education work. “We have a history of sponsoring various interns at SLG, but we were unable to do something of this scale, which is entirely in line with our values ​​of social justice and promoting a more egalitarian arts world,” said its director Margot Heller. “In some ways, progress has been very slow because inequality in the art world is a systemic problem, but we hope this project will show people what is possible and inspire others to do similar work.” All SLG staff It has been a pleasure to host and work with these students,” she added.

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To fund the program, the directors drew on their network of contacts in the international art world. Founding donors include the trustees of major museums such as the Tate and Courtauld in London, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

One of them is former financier Miyoung Lee, who is currently vice president of the Whitney Museum in New York and a member of the North American Acquisitions Committee of Tate Britain. “We desperately need programs like New Curators that will create tomorrow’s artistic tastemakers. We can’t just pick people from the same small pool over and over again. We need to broaden our pipeline so we can hear more voice,” she said.

Paying for students’ time has a transformative effect, she added. “At Whitney, our summer internships used to be unpaid. We used to think ‘it’s an honor to work at Whitney,’ but our blind spots finally disappeared and we realized it was a very self-chosen way, only bringing certain types of people into museums. So we ended up funding the internship program so that the interns got paid, and once we did that, it had a very dramatic impact on who could apply.”

The new curator class has a ten-year fundraising strategy, says Kerryn Greenberg. “This includes individuals, but also philanthropists with fully operating trusts and foundations and companies supporting our exhibition programme. Over time, we aim to diversify our funding structure. We hope to be truly transformative impact, and to do that requires funding; it’s expensive to put on a high-quality exhibition and give students opportunities for change. It’s not an inexpensive program to run, but we’re confident we’ll find the funding,” she said , adding that the project has an ethical fundraising policy, not least because “young, aspiring curators take that very seriously.”

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The application process for new curators is designed to be as inclusive as possible. It does not discriminate against those who make an effort to express themselves in writing. Candidates will be asked to record an audio file of themselves talking about a “cultural object or event” they deem important. According to the application guidelines, this could be an “exhibition, artwork, performance, publication, podcast, film, TV series, advertising campaign, music video, design or fashion item.”

For the cultural events they choose to talk about, Godfrey said, “we’re looking for people who can explain what feels important and urgent” and who “can show analytical thinking” when communicating. “That’s what curators do: they choose what they want you to see and think about. That’s the main thing we look for in the application process.”

The goal is to train 100 curators in the next 10 years. “We’re thinking about a very different kind of curation: curation of large museum exhibitions, but also small projects in artist-run spaces. We want to prepare people to work efficiently when they enter a large, hierarchical institution, But it’s equally effective when they want to carve out their own space.”

• Application for the first new curator programLaunching September 2023 and now open. The application deadline is February 5, 2023.


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