On Wednesday 6 November the ninth annual Marsh Awards for Excellence in Gallery Education celebrated the hard work and dedication of colleagues working within the sector of gallery, museum and visual arts education. The Awards are funded by the Marsh Christian Trust and run by Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education, whose mission is to increase access to the visual arts.
This year seven individuals received awards, presented by Rod Bugg, Ambassador for the Marsh Christian Trust, during the annual Engage Conference in Newcastle and Gateshead. The Awards are open to colleagues working in galleries and visual arts organisations, and colleagues are invited to nominate deserving co-workers every summer. The winners receive £500 to spend on their professional development, and feedback from previous awardees has been overwhelmingly positive – as a result of the Awards, colleagues receive recognition for their work and have reported increased confidence and opportunities, as well as benefits for the organisations where they worked.
This year Engage and the Marsh Christian Trust also launched a new annual Award to celebrate the lifetime achievement of a colleague who is working, or who has worked in learning or education in or for galleries or visual arts organisations in the UK, awarding the winner £500.
Jane Sillis, Director of Engage, said:
The Marsh Awards for Excellence in Gallery Education are a brilliant opportunity to honour the work of colleagues working in the sector across the UK and internationally. The awards shine a light on innovative practice enabling a broad range of audiences to engage with art and artists. We are grateful to the Marsh Christian Trust for their support of the awards and, for the first time this year, supporting the new award for lifetime achievement in gallery education. The launch of this award coincides with Engage’s 30th birthday celebrations.
This year’s recipients are: Carol Dunbar, Wendy Daws, Rachel Dunlop, Jack James, Komal Khetia, Renee Odjidja and Marina Tsekou
Lifetime Achievement Award: Carol Dunbar, Learning & Engagement Programme Manager, The Pier Arts Centre, Orkney
For over thirty years, Carol Dunbar has led innovative community education projects across the Orkney Islands, providing leadership and training to a generation of young people, many of whom have gone on to a career in the arts or become artists themselves. Beginning her career teaching in higher and further education, Carol continued to develop as an artist alongside working on a variety of education projects for Orkney Islands Council throughout the 1980s and 1990s. From 1999 Carol taught Historical and Contextual Studies in the art department of Orkney College/University of the Highlands and Islands, establishing a strong relationship with the gallery, that continues to date. She joined the Pier Arts Centre as their first dedicated learning specialist in 2005 and, alongside strategic work for the gallery’s 2007 re-opening, initiated a number of innovative ongoing projects engaging young people and early years groups.
In nominating Carol, Neil Firth, Director of The Pier Arts Centre, highlighted her dedication to The Pier Arts Centre and the community of Orkney:
Carol Dunbar has made an invaluable contribution to the work of the Pier Arts Centre, creating new resources, projects, collaborations and learning programmes that have greatly added to the Centre’s activities. Working with communities from across Orkney, Carol has provided leadership, training and been a mentor to a generation of young people, many of whom have gone on to a career in the arts or become artists themselves.
Wendy Daws, Artist and facilitator for Sensing Culture, Kent
An artist, educator and creative practitioner, Wendy Daws designs, creates and delivers sustainable projects for marginalised groups across sectors, whether it be Arts, Heritage, Public Health, Local Authority, Education or through collaborations with arts organisations. Following the completion of her dissertation, ‘The Value of Touch and Museum Approaches to Visually Impaired Visitors’ in 2004, Wendy established and continues to run two art groups for blind and partially sighted (BPS) residents of Medway and Gravesend where she volunteers with the Kent Association for the Blind. In 2016, she was commissioned by Rochester Cathedral to create a tactile interpretation of their large scale Baptismal Fresco, by Sergei Fyodorov, resulting in the bronze plaque on permanent display.
In nominating Wendy, Frances Chiverton, Health and Wellbeing Coordinator at The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, spoke of her work leading and coordinating ‘Sensing Culture’, a monthly group at The Beaney offered to those with varying degrees of Visual Impairments:
Wendy goes over and above her role by often travelling out of her way to pick up members of the group, who otherwise would not be able to attend. Everyone who is part of this group feels like they are part of a family and she provides a safe, supportive environment where everyone feels encouraged to experiment their creativity. She works tirelessly to ensure the artwork that the participants produce gains recognition and is showcased, raising participants self-esteem and highlighting their amazing work. She is an inspiration to those that work alongside her and with her and she is a power of positivity. Every gallery should have someone like Wendy working for them!
Wendy will use her Award to attend a coaching programme to develop her collaborative practice and help strengthen her professional partnerships with heritage and cultural organisations on a wider scale.
You can find out more about The Beaney’s Health and Well-Being work here.
Rachel Dunlop, Participation Manager, Peak, Wales
Passionate about access to contemporary culture for young people in rural communities, Rachel’s work in participation is driven by the desire to offer young people based in the Black Mountains opportunities they may never have access to otherwise. She has produced projects on mountains, in fields and forests, on canal boats, in market halls, shops and cafes, and continues to work with some of the most ambitious artists in Wales. Her most notable achievements at Peak include the Illumine and Hinterlands projects, which bring contemporary artistic practice and community participation together in rural places; developing a Young People’s Advisory Group, Peak, involving 15 participants that work to inform and challenges Peak’s programming; and leading on the delivery of Criw Celf South Powys, an Arts Council of Wales national visual arts initiative for young people (11–19 years). Most recently Rachel has worked as one of four lead invigilators for Wales in Venice/Cymru yn Fenis 2019 at the Venice Biennale.
Rachel was nominated by Rebecca Spooner, Creative Director at Peak.
Rachel is dedicated to ensuring equal access to creative opportunities for young people in rural mid Wales. As a young arts professional she is an inspiring mentor and role model for participants seeking their own career paths in the arts and creative industries. Rachel ensures the voice of young people is integral to Peak’s artistic programme and practice. The Marsh Award recognises Rachels’ excellent work in arts participation and will enable her to connect with her peers across the UK. Da iawn Rachel!
Rachel will use her Award to connect with colleagues from organisations who work with co-creation and participatory practices, visiting projects and arts organisations across the UK.
Jack James, Residents’ Programme Manager, South London Gallery, London
With a background in music and sound art, it was working at a Somerford Grove Adventure Playground in Tottenham, London that proved to be the most formative period of Jack’s career. Since joining the South London Gallery (SLG) in 2012, bringing his experience from the adventure playground and nurseries sector to the gallery’s education team, Jack has delivered an inspiring programme of locally grounded artistic activity. Highlights include managing an ongoing programme of artist commissions featuring UK based and international artists to make work with and for the local community (pictured); leading a trip to artist Dahn Vo’s studio in rural Germany for 11 children aged 7-14 who created work with the artist; running Art Block the SLG’s space for children to make things be creative and play on Sceaux Gardens Estate and is currently working with artist Céline Condorelli on a new playground for the Elmington Estate.
In nominating Jack, Ben Messih, Heritage Programme Manager at the South London Gallery, spoke of his strong sense of initiative and deep local networks:
Jack has led an exemplary programme of community-embedded activity across estates neighbouring the SLG since 2016. Jack’s sensitivity, curatorial awareness, and pragmatic ‘can-do’ approach has ensured that our relationships with children, residents and key local partners are both enriched and extended beyond expectations of the programme.
Jack will use his award to undertake research and further develop the Turn the Ordinary play network. A forum for playworkers, artists and curators working at the intersection of contemporary art and education practices with likeminded colleagues at Gallery of Modern Art and Platform in Glasgow.
Komal Khetia, Programme Producer – Young Audiences and Families, Design Museum, London
Since joining the Design Museum at the start of her career over 15 years ago, Komal has provided participants of all abilities with a welcoming space to learn about design and grown the quality of the institution’s learning programmes. Within the first two years of her current role as Young Audiences and Families Programme Producer Komal, without precedent, developed a vision for the programme that has positioned it as a leading design education resource. Under Komal’s direction, the programme ensures that there are a range of opportunities for young learners to explore the roles of design, including bringing awareness of the environmental and ethical impact of the man-made world on our planet and how we can play an active role as conscious consumers and designers.
Komal was nominated by Sevra Davis, Head of Learning at the Design Museum, who spoke of Komal’s dedication to and impact on the organisation:
Komal is an unsung hero of the Design Museum, having worked at the organisation for over 15 years and quietly growing the quality of the institution’s learning programmes in her roles first as Design Ventura Project Manager and then as Young Audiences Programme Producer and now Young Audiences and Families Programme Producer. Komal has led teams of freelancer facilitators and volunteers to deliver high quality programmes for many years and is on the cusp of becoming a respected cultural leader.
Komal plans to use her Award to enrol in a leadership-focused professional development course.
Renee Odjidja, Curator: Youth Programmes, Whitechapel Gallery, London
Working as the Curator for Youth Programmes for the past 5 years, Renee has developed projects, art commissions and community events, collaborating with local organisations, partners and young people. Her programmes have been life transformative for many young people that are now pursuing further studies, artistic careers or other professions. Her most notable achievements have included pioneering the Creative Careers Programmer, which encourage exchanges with industry professionals and opens career pathways into the sector, and growing The Youth Forum, where young people outside formal education can encounter contemporary art, artists, creative professionals and peers.
Renee was nominated by Sofia Victorino, Director of Education and Public Programmes at Whitechapel Gallery:
Renee’s collaborative approach to working with young people has radically changed the perception of what a Youth Programme can be within an arts’ organisation. Her contribution to the sector has been unique and inspiring, opening up to new ways of reflecting on the role of young people in shaping the future of museums and galleries. Renee’s intellectual rigour, creative energy and commitment to a socially engaged practice have been transformative for many young people that are now pursuing further studies, artistic careers or other professions. I am delighted that Marsh Christian Trust has granted Renee this award and I wish her every success in her ongoing research and professional practice.
Renee would like to use the award money towards a curatorial research trip to Ghana, West Africa in spring 2020 to investigate alternative arts education models for working with young people and new forms of artistic and cultural production.
Marina Tsekou, Education Curator, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST)
Marina Tsekou has been creating opportunities for participants for cultural development and participation for more than 19 years, creating programmes that aim to the elimination of social exclusion and create equal opportunities for access to art and culture for all. In 2009 she developed the EMST Without Borders project, an innovative, inclusive and participatory programme for vulnerable groups, such as inmates, people with drug abuse problems, migrants and refugees. Her latest project, Face Forward …into my home, is an interactive art project engaging refugees and focusing on their stories. It aims to give refugees access to art and culture and the opportunity to speak about themselves, their lives and culture to promote inter-cultural dialogue, mutual respect and understanding.
Marina was nominated by Elisabeth Ioannides, Education Curator and Art Psychotherapist, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST):
I nominated Marina because she shows ongoing initiative, leadership and dedication. She is passionate with what she does and this passion has as result the enrichment of the lives of others. She provides the opportunities to people, whether they be students, adults or special groups to voice their ideas, resulting in rich learning experiences. With the establishment of the program EMST Without Borders she has made a measurable impact. Through it the Museum became more diverse and inclusive, attending to the needs and interests of various groups.
Marina will use her Award to begin developing a collaboration with an international institution, designing a joint participatory and innovative programme with colleagues abroad.