Marsh Awards 2018

On Wednesday 14 November the eighth 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 The Marsh Charitable Trust (formerly known as the Marsh Christian Trust) and run by Engage, the support and advocacy organisation for gallery education, whose mission is to increase access to the visual arts.

This year six individuals received awards, presented by Professor Rod Bugg, Ambassador for the Marsh Christian Trust and former chair of Engage, during the annual Engage Conference in Manchester. 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.

Jane Sillis, Director of Engage, said:

This is the eighth year that Engage has celebrated the achievements of colleagues through the Marsh Awards for Excellence in Gallery Education. There was a very high quality of nominations for individuals from the UK and internationally, at all stages of their careers, freelancers, employees and volunteers. We are delighted to work with the Marsh Christian Trust to mark the vital work of colleagues in visual arts education.

This year’s recipients are: Taneesha Ahmed, Bethany Mitchell, Marco Peri, Hannah Pillai, Grace Todd and Jude Wood

Image (left to right): Marco Peri, Jude Wood, Grace Todd, Hannah Pillai, Bethany Mitchell, Taneesha Ahmed. Photo: David Lindsay.

Taneesha Ahmed, Participation Producer, The Tetley, Leeds

With ten years’ experience working in the arts across the UK, Taneesha joined the Tetley in early 2018. Previously Education Officer at the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool, she was solely responsible for all education and outreach work with children, families, schools and adults with protected characteristics. Her accomplishments there included the coordination of a place-based curriculum programme for schools, Writing with Light, which saw 237 Key Stage 2 pupils visit the gallery and the installation of the venue’s biggest ever schools’ exhibition of artwork by 300 pupils. Since joining the Tetley Taneesha has developed a new project with Karachi Biennale to make a collaborative film with schools in Leeds and Pakistan, collectively imagining libraries of the future. The project culminated in a celebration and showcase of the children’s work, opened by the Biennale’s curator in September 2018.

In nominating Taneesha, Bryony Bond, Artistic Director at the Tetley highlighted her creativity, sensitivity and commitment:

Taneesha has made a major impact in making our programming more inclusive. For example, we offer a free programme of training for emerging artists in how to deliver workshops. Previously the uptake has been graduating art students, but this year Taneesha worked incredibly hard to recruit the most diverse group we’ve ever had, engaging practitioners from less formal backgrounds. Her dedication doesn’t stop at recruitment—she continues to support these trainee educators with pastoral and professional guidance well beyond her official remit.

Taneesha intends to use her Award towards a place on Engage’s Extend Leadership Programme, and to help her to further research disparity within the arts sector and how she might create a longitudinal positive impact.

Bethany Mitchell, Curator of Inclusion, MK Gallery

Bethany’s career in participation began nine years ago and has seen her work extensively in artist facilitator and programming roles contributing to the development of learning programmes at Firstsite, Kettle’s Yard, Turner Contemporary, Modern Art Oxford and most recently MK Gallery. A focus on forward-thinking programming, democratic approaches and inclusivity, driven by play-based inquiry and people-centred facilitation thread through all she does. Her most notable achievements at MK Gallery include Green Town Group, a project exploring the green spaces of Milton Keynes; Start the Art: Out & About, an offsite early years programme to support the integration of a new community, and Family-in-Residence, MK Gallery’s unique invitation to family groups to collaborate with artists to engage their communities. Most recently Bethany has successfully launched Art & Us, a new weekly programme of family sessions for children with complex needs. 

Bethany was nominated by Victoria Mayes, Head of Learning at MK Gallery.

Bethany’s innovative thinking majorly influences the programme as a whole. Her authenticity of engagement and ability to bridge all kinds of social gaps between artists and audiences means she is a highly regarded member of the team.

Victoria included a quote from a parent who is taking part in Bethany’s Art & Us programme:

These sessions are making a massive positive influence in both X and X’s life, they live for Sunday and their art club. I just wanted to let you know so you can see what a difference you are making to SEN children’s lives, self-worth and confidence.

Bethany would like to use her Award to undertake a research trip to Sweden, to visit the Reggio Emilia Institutet in Stockholm, and the Byggleskplatsen ‘Building Playgroud’ in Biskopsgården.

Marco Peri, Freelance Art Museum Educator & Researcher, Cagliari, Italy

An art historian, museum educator and researcher, Marco works with museum projects that aim to create a more effective connection between the public and contemporary art. He designs educational formats including ‘per_formative’ guided tours, museum experiences and workshops that encourage the active participation of the public through the involvement of emotional and imaginative resources. Marco’s work, in constant update and research, focuses on the experimentation of interdisciplinary activities, between art and education. He designs and develops educational paths for museums and advanced training courses for art professionals and teachers. Marco regularly collaborates with museums, festivals, institutions and associations to create and develop cultural programs and innovative teaching techniques. 

Marco was nominated by a number of colleagues, including Valerio Rocco Orlando, an artist who emphasised Marco’s authentic dedication and ability to engage participants:

His role as a freelancer gave him the opportunity to question art institutions from a different perspective. I believe this approach can be inspiring not only for the audience and the educators but also for the artists and the curators.

Alexis Sornin, Head of Education at the Punta della Dogana, Palazzo Grassi in Venice also underlined Marco’s dedication and capacity “to engage with a large and varied group of museum professionals and by his passion to mediate art to the public.”

Marco intends to use his Award to study museum education in the U.K., with a particular focus on accessibility and inclusivity issues.

Hannah Pillai, Learning and Outreach Assistant, Attenborough Arts Centre

A practising artist, educator and producer, Hannah’s journey through gallery education started at the age of 17, when she joined Leicester City Gallery’s youth panel, facilitating children’s workshops and working on festivals across the city. She went on to run workshops at Manchester Museum whilst at university, and after graduation worked on Journeys Festival International with the Leicester-based company ArtReach. This experience led her to co-found the participatory research project ‘Untitled Play’, which invited young artists to become co-producers and ‘take over’ a space, creating evolving and interactive installations. It was through this work that she was invited by Engage to present at the InSea Regional Conference in Vienna in 2016. Since then Hannah has collaboratively developed ARTonomy Projects, a series of innovative and playful art workshops aimed at empowering children to become autonomous artists. Hannah is also part of the learning team at Attenborough Arts Centre, coordinating school visits to the gallery and the Young Ambassador programme

Hannah was nominated by Louise Kay, Inclusive Youth Arts Coordinator at Attenborough Arts Centre.

Hannah has single-handedly developed our first Young Ambassador programme, recruiting young people from across the city and providing them with high quality arts experiences. The Young Ambassadors have curated two exhibitions in the gallery, hosted movie nights to complement the themes of exhibitions, taken trips to other venues and assisted with exhibition launch nights. Hannah has managed all of this on her own, built great relationships with the young people and their parents and is committed to the development of the group.

Hannah plans to use her Award to attend Foundation Makaton training, develop her knowledge of how to produce projects involving young people and undertake a workshop in writing grant applications.

Grace Todd, Senior Learning Officer, National Museum Cardiff, part of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Grace has more than 15 years’ experience in developing and delivering exciting and innovative learning programmes, initially as a secondary school science teacher and latterly as a museum educator. She joined Amgueddfa Cymru in 2007 and has embraced opportunities to combine these interests, to bring arts and science together in creative ways. In 2013 she authored Albie the Adventurer, a children’s book about dinosaurs, which inspired the museum’s most popular early years workshop. Currently responsible for leading the museum’s informal learning and community engagement offer, Grace champions socially-just museum practice and relishes the opportunity to devise programmes for a broad range of audiences.

This was underlined in her nomination for the Award by Eleri Wyn Evans, Head of Learning and Interpretation at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales. 

Grace believes that access to culture is a right and that museums can change lives by reducing inequality in cultural participation. To this end, throughout her career she has worked intensely with community groups to improve economic, physical and social wellbeing through the museum’s programmes. Her dedication to providing meaningful participation opportunities has been epitomised through her work with Wallich, a homeless charity, with whom Grace worked to produce an exhibition of contemporary art, entitled ‘Who Decides’. This has been a radically different exhibition for Amgueddfa Cymru which has challenged our internal decision-making processes and created institutional change. This is creating a wider impact on the sector as she actively shares her learning and experience with others.

Grace would like to ensure that ‘Who Decides’ can continue to inspire and empower colleagues across Amgueddfa Cymru to respond to the social needs of a broad community. To that end she would like to use her Award to shadow colleagues at the Museum of Homelessness, and mima, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, two organisations for whom socially-engaged participatory practice is at the heart of their values.

Jude Wood, Freelance Artist, Denbighshire, Wales

Jude is a self-taught artist, who started her creative journey as a graphic designer, before changing direction through her experience in working for South Wales Intercultural Community Arts. She realised just how much she enjoyed sharing the creative process with others, regardless of age, ability or background, and since 1997 has been designing and delivering innovative art projects across Wales in locations as varied as castles, terraced streets, abandoned chapels, theatres, classrooms and the occasional mountain top. After a period of ill health in 2012 Jude’s focus has centred on health and wellbeing and the way in which art and self-expression can be employed as a powerful therapeutic tool. 

Jude was nominated by Sian Fitzgerald, Community Arts Officer at Denbighshire County Council, who drew attention to a recent project (Arts Together) Jude has led to engage parents and their children in the visual arts, in partnership with Family Link Officers from the Education Service, the Arts Service and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and funded by the Arts Council of Wales.

Arts Together supported teamwork, confidence building, problem sharing/solving and encouraged bonding between parents and their children. Many of those involved had never taken part in an arts project before or engaged in any creativity with their children. The project has since been developed and run again with schools and communities in Denbigh and Rhyl. Jude showed tremendous patience, understanding, humour and dedication in making sure that everyone have the opportunity to participate in visual arts activity and gain all the positive outcomes from doing so.

Jude plans to use her Award to undertake specialist training in attachment theory and play therapy to enhance her skills and enable her to further support the parents and young children she works with.