Can artists be activists? Can an exhibition spark social change? Who decides which stories our museums and galleries tell? How should museums deal with traumatic political events? Do governments and business determine what a country’s culture looks like? How do curators take these questions into account when they make displays and exhibitions? This degree will develop the skills you need to make exciting new connections between the forms of visual culture you study, political developments, and broader social and political forces.
BA Curating with Politics offers a multidisciplinary foundation in the histories and theories of art, curating, heritage studies, and politics. You will learn the intellectual and practical skills you need to realise your career ambitions, combining classroom-based learning with hands-on experience in museums and galleries. You will also learn about the history and theory of exhibition design, with a particular emphasis on how curatorial choices shape our experiences while viewing artworks and the other objects on display in museums and galleries.
You will study topics including:
- Art and Power
- History of the museum
- Introduction to Politics
- Art in Latin America
- Digital heritage and museums
To study on our course, you don’t need an A-Level in Art or Art History. In fact, we believe that the best students of visual culture are those who bring fresh eyes and new perspectives to their objects of enquiry.
One of the major reasons for choosing Essex is the quality of the education you will receive. We are ranked 6th among Art History departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014). You will be taught by our expert staff in your very first year, a rarity in the UK Art History courses.
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
If you spend a full year abroad you’ll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won’t pay any tuition fees to your host university.
When you arrive at Essex, you can decide whether you would like to combine your course with a placement year. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and the placements team.
If you complete a year you’ll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.
Our expert staff
Our core staff consists of a dynamic group of art historians and curators. While our research interests span a range of cultures and media, from the early modern to the present, core specialties include exhibition design, modern and contemporary art, public engagement and activism.
Here are a few examples of recent or current projects by staff members:
Dr Gavin Grindon, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Director of our Centre for Curatorial Studies, recently co-curated Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Palestine and the exhibition Disobedient Objects at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one of the best-attended shows in the museum’s history.
Dr Matt Lodder, Senior Lecturer in Art History with an emphasis on modern and contemporary visual culture, recently curated the traveling exhibition British Tattoo Art Revealed and Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed. He is currently co-curating the exhibition Tattoo: Ancient Myths, Modern Meanings, which opens next year in the U.S.
Dr Michael Tymkiw, Senior Lecturer in Art History, is the author of the 2018 book Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism and several other research projects concerning the politics of spectatorship in modern and contemporary art and visual culture.
Dr Lisa Blackmore, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Interdisciplinary Studies, currently convenes entre—ríos, an international network of artists, researchers and community representatives across Latin America who collaborate on virtual and in-country projects that explore sustainability challenges facing bodies of water. She has curated exhibitions on art and the environment with the ESCALA collection at Art Exchange, the on-campus gallery.
Dr Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco, Lecturer in Heritage and Digital Humanities, has just co-directed a documentary that explores community resilience and sense of place in post-1980 earthquake in Irpinia, South Italy. She is also collaborating with Tymkiw and other colleagues from Essex’s School of Engineering on a project titled Neurocuration, which explores how sound-augmentation affects how people experience virtual museums and exhibits.
At Essex, you have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, you are part of a tight-knit, campus community with close ties to several small but excellent museums in the nearby town of Colchester; on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world’s best museums and galleries at your fingertips.
Our facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience and engage in object-based learning, a cornerstone of our approach when teaching the history of art and its modes of display:
- Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is one of the most comprehensive in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection
- Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions and talks by curators and artists, as well as exhibitions organised by our postgraduate curatorial students
- Colchester’s iconic Firstsite gallery features an exciting programme of contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings and talks, and exhibitions organised by our curatorial students
- Our Centre for Curatorial Studies is home to staff who specialise in the history and theory of exhibition design and curate high profile exhibitions.
The visual arts and culture industries have become an increasingly significant part of the national and international economy, and our graduates can leave Essex with the skills to take advantage of this growing opportunity.
The sectors with jobs best suited for students with a BA in Curating include museums, galleries and auction houses. Within these sectors, you can pursue a career in curation, cultural policy, museum education, programming, events and marketing. Our degree also equips you with foundational skills to run your own gallery, to work as a PR agent, or to work in the wider arts and cultural industries, in design, fashion, publishing or events management.
To help our students acquire the particular skills they need to gain employment in the museum and gallery sector – the single-most important area in which our students will seek jobs – we offer numerous modules dedicated to the histories, theories and practices of museums, exhibitions and galleries. Additionally, we give you the chance to think creatively and proactively about life after university through our curatorial employability module.
We also work with the University’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements and voluntary opportunities.
Why we’re great
- We house a collection of over 750 artworks from Latin America, ESCALA, and over 100 works of British art, so you can study art ‘in the flesh’ on campus
- Our academics are actively engaged in curating exhibitions and digital platforms, often about urgent political issues
- Our structured programme of study trips at home and abroad takes you far afield and explores local settings
We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The course content is therefore reviewed on an annual basis to ensure our courses remain up-to-date so modules listed are subject to change.
Teaching and learning disclaimer
Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.
The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.