Case Study | Curating in the community with alumna Coralie Datta

08 February 2022
Coralie Datta

We catch up with MA Alumna Coralie Datta, Curator of Archives at Space2, an award winning arts and social change charity, based in Leeds. Much of Space2’s work emphasises health and wellbeing and reducing isolation. We caught up with Coralie to find out more:

Whilst studying for my undergrad in Photography, I curated a few exhibitions of my own work and my fellow students work, I enjoyed the experience and this was when I first started to think about Curation as a career. In 2014, I was employed by Comic Relief to curate an exhibition at Buckingham Palace for the launch of the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards, which was a very unique experience.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I decided to actually pursue a career in Curation. I was working as a photography assistant, photographer, and cycle trainer and spending my spare time volunteering for environmental activism organisations. Through my commitment to arts as a means for social change, I have developed a particular interest in accessibility to the arts and the use of art to illuminate untold stories. This led me to study curation in the belief that the arts should be working to tell diverse stories and sometimes uncomfortable ones.

Image: Coralie Datta at Space2 

My role at Space2 is Curator of Archive and I will be creating and curating their archive to celebrate their 20th year. Over the years Space2 have run a wide variety of projects from large scale productions at Yorkshire Playhouse to small weekly craft groups, all of the projects have been co-produced with the community. Space 2 supports, celebrates and is committed to the community that it serves, I will emulate this within the archive. I am working with a small group of community members, volunteers and staff to co-create an interactive archive and will also co-curate a physical exhibition of artefacts, and photographs with audio from the archive to bring the stories alive.

For all of my practical projects in my MA, I worked collaboratively with other people; this has helped me develop skills of facilitation and working with other people creatively which is helping me professionally. For my thesis I researched how art centres adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had to adapt my topic due to the lockdown and being unable to visit art centres in person. I used Space2 as one of my case studies in my research.

Throughout my studies I focused on community arts and participatory curation. While I was growing up in Hackney, I was involved in various community arts projects from community operas to co-production design projects. Community arts was what I had been searching for within the arts but not quite found how to start a career in. My studies helped give me a direction for my career in the arts.

If you are thinking about a career in curation I'd suggest using your time studying to explore the various types of curation/ jobs in the arts industry and, if you are able, say yes to all the opportunities that come your way. Whilst I was studying I was able to create relationships with local businesses and organisations which has helped me develop my career.