In memory of Sue Clive MBEview comments on In memory of Sue Clive MBE 2

Cite this article 

Citation for In memory of Sue Clive MBE
Title In memory of Sue Clive MBE
In 2023, Sue Clive was awarded a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her achievements as part of the year’s Marsh Awards.
The following tributes are from colleagues who were privileged to work with her during her expansive career.

[Gallery education] … aims to work with a full range of existing and potential audiences in interpreting art. Working from within, it draws the gallery’s attention to the experience and knowledge of the visitor. It builds on the visitor’s own knowledge to enable them to engage with, and gain understanding and possibly enjoyment of, particular works of art. While respecting the practice of art and the individual work of art, it encourages a critical response from the viewer.

Extract from ‘Art with People’, by Sue Clive and Felicity Allen, the Artist’s Handbook, 1995.
Dr Emily Pringle

This quotation comes from a 1995 text co-authored by Sue Clive and Felicity Allen that was published in the Artist’s Handbook publication ‘Art with People’. Reading it in 2024 it is noticeable how accurately it describes the principles of the practice they refer to as ‘gallery education’ and how enduring those principles are. Gallery education, as Sue Clive and Felicity Allen rightly observe in their opening paragraphs, was in 1995 a ‘new profession’, although specialist research and education provision for schools had been more or less a core activity in art museums since their foundation in the 19th century in the UK. However, gallery education as described here, with its focus on engaging potential audiences, with its criticality and its association with art practice was distinct from existing museum education. It was and remains a rich and innovative practice and one that Sue Clive was instrumental in creating.

Sue began working in education in galleries in the 1980s. She came to this work having studied stage design at Central School of Art in the 1950s. She subsequently completed a four-year Bachelor of Education and then an MA in Art Education at Manchester Polytechnic. During this period Sue also taught in various schools in Gloucester before becoming Head of Art in a boys’ grammar school near Manchester. Her interest in exploring how contemporary arts education could benefit young people was already evident. As Sue herself said, ‘in my teaching I used images to stimulate creative writing and realised how much students got out of looking at art, and so in art courses I started taking them to museums and galleries, which was quite unusual at the time.’ Likewise, Sue’s commitment to researching and theorising the practice was also apparent in her choice of MA dissertation subject; How children come into contact with contemporary art/artists.

Sue brought this extraordinary wealth of expertise to the work she went on to do in the early 1980s, initially touring and running workshops in galleries with the Arts Council England Big Prints exhibition and then in various freelance roles working with schools and other groups and galleries. In the mid-1980s she was appointed as the first Education Officer at Cornerhouse, Manchester with a brief to set up and run the education programme, as well as continuing to do freelance work in other venues all over the country. Sue’s other notable achievements include running a one-year pilot education project at the Hayward Gallery in 1988, being instrumental in the establishment of NAGE (subsequently Engage) — the National Association for Gallery Education, acting as a Trustee of the Arnolfini and art organisation Magic Me, whilst informally supporting and mentoring many younger colleagues well into her supposed ‘retirement’.

This very short summary of Sue’s career does not do justice to the quality of her work or the breadth of her influence on gallery education as a profession. But in many ways, Sue’s trajectory illuminates how and why gallery education has taken shape in the way it has, with its roots in a specific cultural moment in the 1970s and early 1980s. By the 1970s there was growing disquiet amongst artists and policymaker regarding museums and galleries’ apparent exclusivity and lack of engagement with the wider public. At the same time, the growing community arts movement was drawing attention to the importance of enabling creativity and cultural development beyond the bastions of high art. There were, therefore, two powerful agendas at work: one being the drive to widen accessibility to art (i.e. to democratise culture); the other to support more diverse forms of culture and creativity to be acknowledged and valued (i.e. cultural democracy).

The Arts Council of England responded by creating its first Education Officer in 1979, and in 1984 began funding new gallery education posts in municipal galleries. At the same time, museums and galleries were independently creating their own education departments and programmes that embodied the principles outlined in the quote at the start of this essay. Consequently, gallery education as developed and practised by Sue and others at that time sought to both democratise culture and enable cultural democracy. It involved work both inside galleries and outreach projects, often in collaboration with community organisations. Whilst on a micro-level, projects aimed to support visitors to make connections with and develop understandings of the art on display, through processes of artist-led collaborative teaching and learning that built on the learners’ own experiences and knowledge.

The focus on practising artists as workshop leaders has remained one of the defining characteristics of gallery education, and it is an aspect of the practice that Sue championed. Whilst she was Head of Art in the boys school near Manchester, she hosted the first two artists-in-schools in the north west, and she went on to work with contemporary artists throughout her career in and with galleries. Artists working in gallery education then and now occupy multiple roles including teacher, learner, role model, entertainer and craftsperson. At the same time artistic practice, with its hands-on, immersive yet open-ended, experimental, critical and reflexive qualities, offers up a pedagogic model that allows space for visitors to learn. With her experience as a teacher and training in and passion for art, Sue was exceptionally well placed to recognise and utilise these beneficial elements. She worked not just with visual art and artists in the gallery but was also pioneering in the use of drama and movement in gallery workshops.

As with others whose influence is deep and long-lasting, it is perhaps easy to forget how groundbreaking Sue’s work was at the time. Nonetheless, it is a testament not only to Sue’s creativity, thoughtfulness and hard work that the principles of gallery education that she was instrumental in formalising remain at the heart of gallery education practice today. Equally important was Sue’s rigour combined with deep empathy and generosity, all of which are equally important and enduring gallery education values. Sue recognised that if gallery education was to be taken seriously as a profession, those practising it needed to maintain the highest intellectual and creative standards. She herself embodied those standards and provided an exceptional role model for gallery educators to follow. The profession of gallery education and the wider cultural and education sectors owe her a great debt.

Caroline Collier

I knew the fruit farm where Sue grew up and I can picture her running about in the West Sussex countryside as a child. She grew things all her life, notably for her garden in Gloucestershire and in her flat and the communal gardens in Pimlico, where she played a strong role as a gardener and planner of open days. She even managed to cultivate shade-loving plants for the corridor planters outside the flat, where the earth was like dust. Inside, her flat had a shimmery green light because the balcony was a jungle of leafy plants and on every windowsill, there would be seedlings in tiny pots or trays. The muted light was good for her collection of prints — she loved and was very knowledgeable about works on paper. Sue’s distinguished life as a gallery educator was fueled by her love of art and of growth — the cultivation of the imaginations of children and adults, with art, was a passion.

Sue had a genius for friendship and for maintaining relationships. Sue’s family was a great joy in her life, and she would speak of her sister and children and grandchildren with love and insight. Her flat was a haven for many people working in the arts, as well as students. She let out her two spare bedrooms, including the small room in which I stayed from time to time. The shelves were laden with a changing collection of eclectic reading material, including chosen texts from her book clubs. Sue had a striking personal style, strong principles and could be definite in her views. She was curious and empathetic and understood the need on occasion for the comfort of retreat: she was a good cook, who told me that tomato soup from a tin was a staple when on her own and in need of solace. I find myself thinking of Sue very often with admiration and affection — when I sow perpetual sweet peas (she gave me some seeds), see a lovely linocut, wood engraving or exhibition — or open a tin of her favourite soup.

Tributes from colleagues from the early 1980s

Pamela Clarkson Kwami

After moving to Manchester in her forties, Sue worked in schools teaching art. At Sale Grammar School for Boys, she started a programme for artists in schools; it was a bold move to expose teenage boys to live, performing artists. I was 12 years younger than Sue and had recently relocated to Cheshire. I can’t remember how I became one of Sue’s artists. At that time, I was painting large canvases of hieratic Egyptian figures. What surprised the boys, and amused Sue, was how the painting changed dramatically from day to day. I would paint, erase and repaint constantly; I also tired of the activity, which surprised the boys even more. They had preconceived notions of artists sitting contentedly at their easels working from start to finish without deviation; a concept they were obliged to change. All down to Sue.

I took to Sue straight away. She appeared to me to be both adult and sophisticated and simultaneously unprotected and open. She told me, without a shadow of self-consciousness, that she was divorced and had a partner who had impressed her with his feminist sympathies. Sue soon moved on to Cornerhouse championing contemporary art and education. I always hoped that by the time I got to be Sue’s age I would be like her; this expectation continued as we both grew older decade by decade.

To further cement our friendship, we shared an agricultural background. I had returned to Cheshire to look after my mother on my parents’ farm. We visited one another often. When Sue moved to London, she extended her hospitality and I stayed with her in Pimlico surrounded by her magnificent collection of prints, her table covered in private view invitations, and met a steady flow of charming and interesting lodgers. In the early ‘90s I married Atta Kwami and moved to Ghana. Sue was exceptionally kind to both of us, offering us a place to stay when we were in London. Atta had an artist’s residency at Gasworks Studios and Sue hosted him. During this time Atta broke the washing machine, lost the keys and forgot to water Sue’s plants: she forgave him. Atta both adored and respected her. Sue encouraged Atta and me as artists, surreptitiously buying our prints from exhibitions. We shared many homely meals together that invariably ended with stewed fruit and custard. Sue wrote letters; I treasured them in Ghana. Sue had a sharp brain, a kind heart, a good eye; she was quietly humorous and gracious in her manner. She invariably dressed in smart skirts which showed off her neat ankles and good legs; she was rarely seen without earrings and a necklace of distinction. And who could forget those hats? After 45 years of friendship, I mourn her absence.

Val Millington

I became friends with Sue in 1976 in Gloucester where she was on the management committee of an arts organisation I worked for. In the mid ‘80s, when I was Curator at the Cooper Gallery in Barnsley, Sue ran workshops for children and adults with three Arts Council touring exhibitions: Big Prints, Gillian Ayres: Paintings, and Beyond Appearances. The workshops usually involved discussion followed by practical activities, even though we had no separate education space. For example, with Big Prints children made prints working on newspaper on the gallery floor. I admired Sue’s ability to be straightforward, to avoid jargon and to draw out feelings, ideas and opinions without judgement. She could get anyone, of any age, to talk about art. When I visited Sue in London, we would visit exhibitions or go to films together, and around 2008 I became her lodger for the second time. I loved spotting her new print purchases and would sometimes cheekily suggest a re-hang to accommodate the new print, an idea always firmly resisted! We shared an interest in Japanese prints, a number of which hung in Sue’s bedroom, along with family photographs, something I have inadvertently copied in my house. I always enjoyed Sue’s company, her frank views on art and life and her resistance to didactic labels telling us how to respond to what we were looking at.

Vivienne Bennett

Sue was always such a vital bundle of energy and creativity and such an amazing communicator. I first met her in 1980 when working at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester, and asked her to run some art workshops in conjunction with the programme of contemporary art — and never looked back. Later, when I was at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, she led many workshops — one related to an exhibition on Bridget Riley and another on works by Tristram Hillier that I remember particularly. She also worked with young adults who were visually impaired, and I still remember how moving that was. She effectively helped them to see and understand artworks they thought they couldn’t see. Sue became a good friend and dear colleague, and she will be dearly missed.

Sheila McGregor

My first experience of working with Sue was a pivotal moment in my professional life. I was an inexperienced curator in a smallish regional gallery in the mid 1980s, with a theoretical commitment to gallery education but little idea of how to go about it. So, I invited Sue to run a workshop for local sixth formers alongside an exhibition of contemporary British painting of the human figure. She had an astonishing gift for getting people to talk about and, more importantly, look at art. I suddenly realised that my art history degree was all about received wisdom and scarcely about looking — really looking — at all. Somehow, Sue always asked the right questions. And that was perhaps because she was, by training, an artist herself. That’s why she was also good at teaching practical skills: I’ll never forget a linocut workshop for a class of eight year olds, which, long before the days of risk assessment, involved worryingly sharp knives. But under Sue’s authoritative guidance, there were no mishaps. Over many years Sue’s friendship was something I valued a great deal. I remember a long, companionable car journey to a conference in Glasgow; visits to her exquisitely beautiful garden in Gloucestershire; and stays at her comfortable flat in London, with its wonderful display of prints. She had a huge impact on me and on so many other people, in so many ways.

Janice McNamara

I met Sue in 1984. Sue wanted a lodger, and I needed a bed. From there a 39-year friendship bloomed — Sue was a mentor, helping me navigate my early career in gallery education and the first days of the National Association for Gallery Education (originally NAGE and subsequently Engage). Her belief in me as an individual and validation of the contribution I could make, gave me a foundation and confidence as I stepped naively into the gallery world. Our enduring friendship gave me a window into Sue’s perception, her passion for gardens, art, and the importance of creating opportunities for others to step in. I saw how she could be intrigued and wanted me to see the beauty that she could see. As my career moved out of the arts she followed with curiosity and gave continued support, with long conversations at Repton House, where she lived in London. Then the cycle started again — Sue wanted a lodger, so she took in my niece, Kate, and the pair lived together for five years. Through her flat shares, Sue connected and enriched so many lives. Sue’s influence and significance live on, in so many ways.

Alison Cox

It is difficult today to imagine what a major figure Sue was in the development of the theory and practice of gallery education as a specific field, distinct from but related to museum education. The practice has grown so greatly and there are any number of people doing brilliant things, but in the ‘80s, when I got my first education job on the back of the Arts Council’s Glory of the Garden scheme, it was small and growing, and the formation of Engage was a couple of years away. Sue was the go-to expert for callow newbies, and I admit to being terrified at our first meeting. She was forthright and exacting and critical of lazy thinking. She was also immensely kind, encouraging, generous and endlessly supportive throughout my career. When family circumstances meant living away from London, I regularly stayed with her in her lovely flat — vivid memories of long conversations in her plant and print-filled oasis of a living room — and when work eventually took me back to the Midlands, and I was equally terrified, her calm encouragement helped me on my way. Chapeau and thank you, Sue Clive.

Dr Virginia Tandy

Sue came to Manchester and reinvented herself as a gallery educator. She first worked with me in Tameside in Manchester at the Astley Cheetham Art Gallery in the early 1980s. Often working with me on Arts Council touring shows, as well as others that we presented. We had fun together planning how to bring the shows to life for schools and other visitors. Sue was a pioneer and she loved being with artists. She also inspired so many young curators and education officers. She was a great friend to many people just starting out. She did work with lots of galleries in Greater Manchester including Rochdale and I think Oldham, and possibly the Turnpike and Drumcroon in Wigan, as well as the Whitworth, and she knew all the galleries across the country that had a commitment to education work. When I went to Cornerhouse as Senior Exhibitions Officer, I’m pretty sure she lobbied Sue Grayson Ford, then the Exhibitions Director to create a job as the gallery’s education officer. She worked with lots of exhibiting artists and other artists interested in education work to provide a vibrant programme of theoretical and practical activities. She loved Cornerhouse and not only did she work on all the early shows, but she also had the Cornerhouse logo painted on her van, which she drove all over the country. She was incredibly well connected. I remember her introducing me to Nick Serota when he was running the Whitechapel, and she was a great fan of Camden Arts Centre and Jenni Lomax. When she went to live in London, her flat was an open house. Lots of people went to stay and I know that she hosted both Caroline Collier of Tate and Janet Barnes when she ran the Crafts Council, amongst others. She was a great collector and maker of prints and got to know so many artists through her work. Her passion for gardening was amazing, not only in Gloucestershire at the bungy, but she also ran a gardening club in the apartment building where she lived in Pimlico. She enjoyed being an urban older woman and chose her flat because it was near Tate.

Tributes from colleagues from the late 1980s and Cornerhouse

Jane Sillis

I met Sue in the early 1980s at Cornerhouse when I was a very inexperienced Education Officer at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. Sue was typically generous with her advice and her encouragement instilled me with confidence. Over the years Sue mentored me and countless other colleagues. In the 1990s I led the education team at the Whitechapel Gallery and invited Sue and Sara Selwood to contribute to a publication about the groundbreaking education work of Jenni Lomax and others at the gallery. As Emily Pringle writes, Jenni and Sue had much in common. They championed engagement work with artists and advocated for participants making and talking about art. Principles of equality and access were critical to their practice. These methodologies and the underpinning values directly shaped my work and career choices over the following decades.

Sue was formative in the development of the National Association for Gallery Education (NAGE) which later became Engage. She was at the pivotal meeting in Southampton in the late 1980s which formally discussed setting up NAGE. I encountered Sue in my voluntary roles as a West Midlands Rep and an Engage Vice Chair. Sue supported the Directors Felicity Allen and Christopher Naylor and many other colleagues, as Engage rapidly developed and grew through the 1990s and 2000s, working on many issues including equalities, professional development, the Engage Journal and Resource. Sue wrote and worked as a consultant in the 1990s and 2000s and we both served as trustees of Magic Me.

I worked on an arts programme with homeless people in the 2000s. Sue, with typical generosity attended celebrations with participants, from garden openings to events in shopping centres and hostels across London. In 2005 when I became Director of Engage, Sue helped me to navigate a challenging new role. The care and concern Sue had for Engage was reflected in the candour of her advice. During this period, I lodged with Sue and met her family and friends. Her generosity enabled me to establish relationships with colleagues who remain important today. Sue and I shared membership of two book groups and a film group. I often think about Sue’s taste in books — she liked a straightforward narrative — and had a love of westerns and detective dramas. I enjoyed Sue’s eclectic taste in fashion, love of prints and robust cooking. When Sue moved into care we continued our discussions about family, friends, art, television, and food. Our last few conversations covered Vermeer, Hockney and Alice Neel. I think about Sue often and miss her candour, acerbic wit and acute insights.

Liz Ellis

Sue was a generous, creative colleague and friend for decades. My first meeting with Sue was in the late 1980s when she welcomed me to Cornerhouse Gallery in Manchester. In characteristic collaborative style, Sue hosted me in a shared residency that I was lucky enough to be invited to do with Labour History Museum Curator, Dr Myna Trustram. Sue put me up in her flat, and she and Myna helped me navigate two very different, fascinating cultural organisations. Back in those predigital days, I commandeered their institutional photocopiers, explored Labour history resources and artefacts, including Right to Roam badges and displayed my pop-up exhibition across the two sites. A subsequent 35-year friendship was forged with Sue and Myna. Sue was innovative and determined as a lifelong champion of gallery education, historically seen as a lesser relation to gallery collections and exhibitions. Sue encouraged so many of us working across the UK cultural sector by promoting best practice and critical thinking across all aspects of gallery education. Sue championed artists’ practice within gallery education, increasing national and international profiles for all peers and institutions involved. The development of Engage as the sector leading, inclusive, UK-wide advocacy, research and resource organisation was encouraged and supported by Sue, alongside cultural sector professionals Jane Sillis, Alison Cox, Lindsey Fryer and many other wonderful colleagues. Sue shared her love of gardening with us all too, another generous aspect of her creativity. From her beautiful Gloucestershire garden, Sue made the most delicious mulberry sorbet I could ever taste… Thank you, Sue.

Helen Luckett

Whenever I think about Sue, I think of Manchester — which is strange because when we met it was almost always in London. But in the 1980s and ’90s, Manchester was her real territory and she had unrivalled knowledge of the whole metropolitan area and its many museums, galleries and exhibition spaces. She had probably worked in all of them at one time or another, although Cornerhouse was her true home. Yet it was the small and local that she particularly cherished. In 1995, writing about an education project at the 198 Gallery in south London, Sue outlined what was essentially her own manifesto. Rather than focusing on ‘dead, white, male artists,’ she emphasised that ‘those of us who work in local art galleries [should draw attention] to contemporary art practice and to … women artists not mentioned in glossy, coffee table books or standard Art History publications.’

It was Pat Van Pelt, the Arts Council’s Art Education Officer, who gave Sue her first job running workshops with exhibitions. Close in age, they shared many interests and a similar sense of humour, kindness and good sense, and remained long-distance friends after Pat’s departure from the UK. When Pat died in 2019, her friends were asked to remember her by going for a long walk, visiting an art museum, or re-reading a favourite book. Sue would surely have wished for that herself, with the additional hope that her friends would then introduce other people to such experiences.

Anandi Ramamurthy

I worked with Sue Clive at Cornerhouse in the late 1980s. She was the person who made me feel the most welcome and the person who valued my opinion as a young Black curator. She nurtured me, gave me opportunities to flourish in education and gallery interpretation. I also remember her sharing her lovely home in Gloucestershire with me one weekend. I remember her extremely fondly and wanted to share in the collection of tributes to her.

Clare Cumberlidge

I first met Sue Clive at the Cornerhouse in 1987, when my Museum and Art Gallery Studies post-grad course worked with her on a gallery education project, a workshop for a Bill Woodrow exhibition. I can still remember how her questions and the conversation she sparked amongst the school kids and ourselves brought the work to life — or more accurately brought the work to each of our lives. She had a magical and revelatory way of creating connections between art and the politics, pleasure and complexities of everyday life for everyday people. The Cornerhouse Manchester was the first contemporary art gallery I worked with, and Sue was at the heart of its programme. The hierarchies of education and programming which I came to be familiar with once moving to London did not exist at Cornerhouse, and it was all the better for it. So much of what we understand today as best practice in access, engagement and inclusivity was pioneered by Sue and the Cornerhouse team. As a young woman with a northern accent and no previous knowledge of the art world, I benefited enormously from Sue’s support and belief, her kindness and lack of snobbery — rare in the art world of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It was a joy to know Sue.

Bev Bytheway

Sue Clive walked into the office at Rochdale Art Gallery in 1982, and that was the start of a decade of working together. Sue wanted to talk about gallery education and this being my first job, I knew nothing. I had no idea what even a workshop might be. Our first adventure together was a two-week programme of workshops, twice daily for schools in Rochdale with the Gillian Ayres exhibition. From then on, I knew Sue was on to something very special.

Next came Cornerhouse Manchester, opening its doors to the public in October 1985, dedicated to independent film and contemporary visual arts. Dewi Lewis, the founding director, commissioned Sue to set up a centre for gallery education as part of its operations. Dewi recalls having to find the funding somehow, as there was no funding for such things in those days. By now, Sue’s reputation across the north west was growing. Sue was travelling the regions supporting the Arts Council Touring exhibitions. Cornerhouse gave Sue a home base and the opportunity to really consolidate her practice — or perhaps that should be the other way round — Sue gave Cornerhouse the opportunity to build audiences and embed itself in the life of the city. Sue was at the core of the programming team. Artists were at the core of her work. It’s impossible to summarise the breadth of Sue’s work at Cornerhouse, but these were important times and the impact Sue had on the gallery and education sector revelatory. Sue established a model for gallery education at Cornerhouse that simply hadn’t existed before. Someone should write the story. I am deeply honoured to have worked with Sue throughout the 1980s. I cherished our friendship which grew out of those times and has seen us through until now. I will never forget hurtling around the country in Sue’s Cornerhouse van to see shows, to meet artists and colleagues. I will be forever thankful. And as I write this, the winter jasmine Sue gave me is just bursting into flower.

Lucy Wilson

I was introduced to Sue Clive in the mid ‘80s by Vivienne Bennett and Penny Johnson. She had moved to Manchester to take up the appointment of Head of Education at the Cornerhouse and together we ran workshops both at the Cornerhouse and at other museums and galleries in the north west in collaboration with the Art Council Touring exhibitions. She was part of a ‘new wave’ of thinkers challenging the existing methodology of art education in schools and colleges in their approach to the use of galleries, especially with contemporary art. Her impact on the future of gallery education would prove immense. At the time I was blissfully unaware of anything to do with educational strategy, or even how to run a workshop. Sue was a brilliant mentor, questioning and nurturing, and together we forged a working partnership and friendship. Her input bore fruit later when I worked for many years in the Tate education department. (Note the deliberate analogy to gardening). Women who are passionate, and have posh voices, are dismissed derogatorily as ‘battle axes’. Sue could come across as formidable, but she was far from it: humorous, self-deprecating and very generous. She had an enormous influence on my life.

Tributes from colleagues from the 1990s and 2000s

Deborah Dean

I worked with Sue on several projects during her freelance years, particularly in the 1990s when I was at Worcester Art Gallery & Museum. This was early in my career and Sue had a profound impact — I was a little in awe of her work and reputation but she was so generous with her knowledge and experience, so supportive of my fledgling ideas, encouraging me to trust my instincts. She remains an inspiration.

Michèle Fuirer

I first met Sue in the early 2000s, in London, when I was a newly hatched freelance Artist Educator. Subsequently we followed each other in and around the circuit of gallery education for at least a decade. Sue had the passion and the ‘green fingers’ to promote the growth of our sometimes vulnerable and emergent profession of gallery education. She had a steely eye and a way of saying what needed to be said. I soon came to appreciate this as a special Sue quality of ‘strict and kind’. If Sue was there, the meeting would most likely stay on point. She was uncompromising in her insistence that in order to engage in the multi-sensory process of making meaning from art, there was a need to be in front of it. There was no substitute for the experience of the real thing. I celebrate Sue and her striking originality, whether expressed through her superb collection of original prints; her fabulous necklaces; her distinctive Sue type hats; her deep love of plants and gardening and her always welcoming spread of good things on the table. All of this, and more, made Sue a truly remarkable woman.

Jane Selman

I was very fond of Sue. I met her when she was appointed my mentor in 1997 at the newly opened Spike Island Artspace, Bristol. I was the first gallery educator there and really was so naive about it all. Sue was brilliant and solely because of her, I got my act together, and together we did some good stuff with the artists and local community. In 2000 I moved to London for 10 years and became a full-time fundraiser for arts and mental health. I saw Sue quite a bit and would stay over at hers, and once in Gloucestershire at her cottage. I was honoured to attend her ‘retirement’ do at the Tate. I moved back to Bristol in 2010 and we lost touch. We last spoke on the phone at Christmas in 2019. I regret not making more of an effort to visit when in London. It is a reminder that time in this life is short.

Tributes from colleagues in Engage and Magic Me

Susan Langford

Sue Clive became a trustee of intergenerational arts charity Magic Me in 2003, and supported us in that role until November 2014. As Director of Magic Me I greatly enjoyed working with her throughout that time. Sue was always generous with her experience, her ideas and her creative thinking. Not afraid to challenge and stretch me, she always did so from a positive place, and I learned a lot from her. A fantastic person to have with us around the board table, Sue always championed the artists who lead Magic Me’s activities and are at the heart of what we do. She was very clear that looking after the artists, through training, support and proper fee structures, would mean a better experience for our participants and better art. Sue was a warm and curious person, always keen to see workshops in action or meet our intergenerational groups and get their side of the story. My life and professional thinking were enriched by knowing Sue and I am very grateful to have had the chance to do so.

Lindsey Fryer

Sue has always been part of my story in gallery education from the mid 1980s at Arnolfini. Sue and I were part of a group of people in galleries who were passionate about creating access to the arts for everyone. We shared our passions, politics and practice. Through often experimental education programmes, we championed a more dialogical and experiential approach to engaging with the arts.  

Sue was an inspiration; she hosted that small group of people in her Gloucestershire home, listened intently, posing difficult but critical and urgent questions, was immensely kind and generous in sharing her knowledge and experience, keeping us all on track… and feeding us! Sue asked how bold was our ambition for a national organisation? We all agreed that ‘we wanted to change the world’ — very ambitious!   

Sue continued to support the new emerging Engage throughout its development. Our national and international network of fellow professionals has grown, professional practice training and mentoring is core. We have seen more artists developing social engagement into their practices. We have national campaigns, and every gallery across the UK now has engagement at the core of its work. 

Sue continued to be a critical friend to me. When she became a trustee at Arnolfini in 1995 I was privileged to have her as part of the governing body, gently campaigning for change at the core of the organisation. When I joined Tate Liverpool Sue continued her support; we had many conversations over dinner, as I was one of those she welcomed into her home. 

Sue’s sphere of influence is vast. Her kindness and generosity touched so many people over her lifetime. 

Felicity Allen

I was appointed as the first person to set up and run NAGE, the National Association for Gallery Education (now known as Engage) and I was told by Colin Grigg, then at the Arts Council, that the first job I had to do was to set up a board of trustees. He said, Sue Clive — to this point unknown to me — should definitely be a trustee. There were others I should make contact with who might be involved, but Sue was a definite. Although her background was rather more stable than my own, she had certain characteristics that reminded me of the women in my family: determined, with a strong commitment to the social, the idea of the public good, making change for the better. She told me about the gallery education she’d been involved in in Manchester and helped me re-configure a network that had met for a conference in Southampton three years earlier. Although she would sometimes veto the developments I suggested (a change of name: nobody knew how to pronounce NAGE; ’National’ was an earlier era’s museum when the world was now global); her knowledge and commitment were unquestionable and helped shape the way Engage developed. It was Sue’s steadfast attachment to continuities from the past that often gave reassurance and could benefit the work, particularly in her knowledge of gallery education. She generously shared ideas about what might go into the essay I wrote for Malcolm Dickson’s book, Art with People, and I was very happy to continue a friendship with Sue for some time beyond my work with Engage.

Rachel Tranter

I met Sue Clive through my association with Engage — first as a London Representative and then a board member. Sue became a regular visitor to Orleans House Gallery (Twickenham) and an important mentor to me as my practice developed. Sue was instrumental in helping shape my thoughts around gallery education, and a new programme of activity which placed young people (many of whom were vulnerable) at the forefront. I remember Sue’s clear stance on looking at the work and drawing out responses from participants, centering their thoughts and feelings, as well as their creativity. Sue soon became part of the extended ‘gallery family’ at Orleans, and a good friend. I was really pleased that she was able to attend my wedding blessing in 2008 and other important occasions, as we transformed the site from a neglected derelict local authority gallery to an award-winning cultural destination. Sue was such a significant influence on my early career; I’ll never forget her gracious smile and her wise words. Sue’s influence encouraged me to strive to be a positive advocate for the role of museum and gallery education. Her legacy lives on through the generations of educators that she inspired, and the lives of all those who have benefited from meaningful gallery education practice.

Sue as a person

Sandy Nairne

Sue Clive was a wonderfully creative and critically important force in the field of visual arts education. As an experienced art teacher, she was passionate about the better connections to be made between students, artists and gallery displays. But she knew that such connectivity could not be taken for granted, and dedicated so much of her professional life to promoting the benefits of the practice and study of art. As a museum director myself, I felt both encouraged and inspired by Sue’s dedicated work.

Dr Myna Trustram

Sadly, and strangely, a few hours after I had written my last letter to Sue, I was told she had died. My letters to her were real ones, handwritten and posted in a postbox, perhaps because something I particularly enjoyed about Sue was the time she set aside for the physicality of the things of the world, whether humble, everyday objects, or fine artworks. I remember the homemade butter dish on her kitchen table; a set of three 1950s painted jugs; strings of bright beads; the wonder of a seed from New Zealand that grew into a flower; blackcurrants; a piano stool in a Church Stretton junk shop; stewed plums for pudding; a sheet of shallow water flowing over stone; self-seeded primroses; damsons that we picked in Gloucestershire lanes; leather boots on a stone windowsill after a walk; wild strawberries hidden in woods near Saint Privat d’Allier. Above all, the gallery of her London flat, with Sue the welcoming custodian — everything so utterly distinctive.

Amanda Phillips

When I began my career, learning outside the classroom within a gallery was finding its way as a professional practice and was resisting the sense it was an ‘add on’ to the established curatorial role. At the time I didn’t know how to speak of it, or myself. Sue Clive offered a role model and through that, a greater understanding which has shaped my working life. Sue, it seemed at the time, was full of conviction and love for its meaningfulness for people and places and could argue for its significance within the settings that rooted its creative energies. Her clarity and strength helped me feel the same. Time has travelled, and now I am left with a lingering memory of Sue taking the time to send me a personal message after an interview, and a strong sense of kind thoughtfulness. In conclusion and albeit rather dramatically, I am not sure UK gallery engagement work would be what it is without her contribution.

Kate Baker

Sue Clive was always Granny Sue to me. To her, I was ‘the most uncultured person’ she’d ever met. We lived together for five years, starting in 2011 when I was just 24. I was starting my MSc and needed somewhere to live, and 77-year-old Granny Sue took me in and gave me a home. Despite the 53-year age gap, we got on incredibly well. We had a lot in common, except culture, and we would sit together in the evening, me watching TV and Sue doing the crossword. We would cross paths as I came home from lectures and Sue went off to book club, the cinema, or the latest play in the West End. Come to think of it, we didn’t have a lot in common — but we shared a mutual love and respect that has stayed with me all these years and helped me become the woman I am today. Granny Sue often had lodgers and it’s a testament to her character that so many came back to visit — all powerful women with successful careers, who held Sue in high regard and showed her the same respect that still resonates with me today.

2 comments on “In memory of Sue Clive MBE

  1. Jenny Hall on

    Sue was my mother-in-law for a few brief years, and a lifelong friend. What a remarkable woman, and a magnificent grandmother to my daughter. It’s wonderful to read these tributes and testaments to the impact she made.

  2. Sarah Plumb on

    Thank you for sharing these lovely words on Sue Clive. Although I didn’t know her, I felt like I did through her wonderful words, which I referenced when studying for Masters, specialising in gallery education, and continue to do so. I can tell from the tributes that Sue was an incredible woman and her legacy will live on.


Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *