Sue Saxon does London - Part 1

Monday, September 01, 2014

Introducing our guest blogger this week - Education Program Manager, Sue Saxon. Sue is currently visiting our British colleagues in London, exploring new approaches to education and public programs in arts organisations, museums and galleries.

"London is always exciting, but the long crisp days of August (post heat wave) are a fine time to visit key contemporary art institutions and explore their innovative exhibition and engagement programming. 

This blog introduces some highlights of my professional development schedule - in depth meetings with key representatives of Tate Learning, Artangel and Serpentine Gallery Curators of Marina Abramovic's extraordinary duration all performance 512 hours and associated programmes.

On Monday 11 August I met with Emily Pringle, Head of Learning Practice and Research, in the Tate Modern Learning department.

Photo: Emily Pringle

We discussed aims and approaches to our learning and engagement programs including an update on the progress of the Transforming Tate Learning project begun in 2011, and now in Phase Two. Tate Learning has been examining and reframing practice and developing new models of practice-led research for integration across all its sites, and in preparation for the move into its new expanded offices with the completion of the new building in 2016.

Photo: Tate Modern extension

We compared the critical roles that artists play in both our learning programs, and the blurring of boundaries between artists and learning across multiple Tate learning activities.

The possibility of collaborating on a reciprocal international internship program in learning or curatorial spheres based on Tate Modern and Tate Britain's Brooks International Fellowship was mooted. Funded by Tate Supporters, the professional development opportunity involves three month internships at either institution.

Tate Learning has collaborated with the Khan Academy to create online learning programmes around the TateShots series. Upon my return, I'll explore the Khan Academy's mission as a potential link for both our groundbreaking MOVE resources.

Emily Pringle extended an invitation to Kaldor Public Art Projects and our tertiary partners to contribute to Tate Research Centre's innovative online portal, which is to be formally launched in October 2014. The Research Centre invites working papers of 3000-5000 word length for its quarterly submission deadlines and aims to lead research in art education and practice. Kaldor Public Art Projects will be added as a link to the Tate Research Centre website, with the opportunity to collaborate on a future research project.

We discussed the dearth of evaluation models for art learning and engagement activities and the development of Tate Learning's evaluation framework, based on a highly regarded South Australian model. Emily gave me a copy of Tate Learning's Logic Model planning tool and we'll continue to explore and exchange evaluation methodologies in our future correspondence.

The following day I travelled to Margate to meet Anna Cutler, Tate Modern Director of Learning, and Fiona Kingsman, Head of Learning, Programme and Resource.

Photo: Sue Saxon, Anna Cutler and Fiona Kingsman

Photo: Turner Contemporary

After touring the Turner Contemporary, and viewing the 'Mondrian and Colour' and 'Spencer Finch: The Skies can't keep their secret' exhibitions our frank and full discussion traversed the ambitions and challenges facing Tate Learning and its relationship with its 18 regional partners (Plus Tate) particularly in their approaches to regional community engagement; the latest theories and approaches to learning and the role and responsibilities of the Museum in the 21st century, with particular emphasis on the opportunities presented by the Tate's new building; the demands and texture of leadership within contemporary arts, and the potential to participate in an international women's leadership program, and opportunities for Kaldor Public Art Projects to contribute to the exciting new Tate Exchange program led by Fiona Kingsman.

Photos: Margate surrounds

The following Tuesday, I met with Eleanor Nairne, Artangel Curator, Collection and Public Programmes to discuss this acclaimed organisation's approaches to commissioning and producing projects by international contemporary artists across a range of media and sites in London. Eleanor described her sensitive, comprehensive approach to working with their moving image collection with regional gallery partners, as well as their engagement programs amplifying Artangel Projects.

Photo: Artangel buzzer

When I arrived at the Serpentine Gallery at 9.30am, there were 100 or so folk queuing to enter 512 hours in its final few days.

Photo: Queue for Marian Abramovic's '512 Hour's at the Serpentine.

Photo: Signage for Marian Abramovic's '512 Hour's at the Serpentine.

At 10am, Marina Abramovic took her position at the front door and personally welcomed each guest, shaking their hands. Visitors wrists were stamped before they proceeded into the locker room where they temporarily relinquished all their belongings including watches, laptops and phones, and donned headphones before entering the gallery. Marina and Gallery staff wordlessly assisted visitors across three quiet rooms in which participants stood with eyes closed, walked blindfolded or lay on simple beds. A very moving experience, in which one loses all sense of time and led by Marina, enters a deeper state.

I met with Curator Sophie O'Brien and Public Programmes Curator Lucia Pietroiusti, to gain insights into their general programming, and in particular, programs devised for 512 hours.

Photo: Sophie O'Brien and Lucia Pietroiusti

Photo: Serpentine Gallery and Pavillion

Stay tuned for the next blog post with more on Tate Learning's Schools and Teachers Programme and a special interview with Jen Ohlson, Tate Collectives Producer, exploring the museum’s digital and in-gallery youth engagement programmes, plus the latest from Art on the Underground's new Head, Eleanor Pinfield, and Senior Curator, Louise Coysh, including insights into their unique perspective on both short and long term education and special long term projects for individual Underground stations; Jo Blaxenhale, Arts Council discusses development and funding approaches for UK contemporary art projects / Gasworks, Chisenhale and South London Galleries and the new Central St Martin's HQ at Kings Cross.

Photo: Jen Ohlson

Photo: South London Gallery

Photo: St Martins campus