We spoke to MA Curation Practices student Gill Crawshaw, on studying at Leeds Arts University, what she specialises in and her plans for when she completes her studies...

Why did you choose Leeds Arts University?

Leeds Arts University has a long and distinguished history, with so many alumni who went on to be great artists. What a thrill to be studying at an institution with such a fantastic reputation! Leeds has been home for all of my adult life, I love it here and now I’m loving being a mature student.

What made you select MA Curation Practices?

This was a massive change for me, returning to study after 30-odd years working in jobs that weren’t arts-related (health, social care, equality and diversity). Having organised a couple of exhibitions and other events in my spare time, I wanted to get a better understanding of the field of curating, both theoretical and practical.

MA Curation Practices at Leeds Arts University attracted me because it covers curation across the arts, heritage and beyond. My particular interests include disability arts, access and inclusion and curatorial activism. I wanted to take the opportunity to expand my thinking and put my interests into a broader context and the MA has enabled me to do this. I also liked the idea of joining the course in it’s first year: being a pioneer and playing my own small part in the history of the University.

What do you specialise in? What exciting things are you working on at the moment?

I’m now working on my final project: a dissertation plus a curatorial project. I want to improve my own practice about meeting the needs of blind and partially sighted people as artists and audience, so I’m researching the experiences of blind and partially sighted people in art galleries by visiting Leeds Art Gallery and talking about art with local visually impaired people. My practical project will be an event that responds to some of the things they’ve told me: more information to come!

How does the University develop your curation skills and knowledge?

We’re encouraged to think critically and to experiment, to try new things and get out of our comfort zone. For example, working with sound as part of a collaborative project in the first term has given me a much greater appreciation for, and enjoyment of, this medium. The critical study completed the following term meant I could home in on the topic of activism and curation and think about where my own practice lies. I’ve also enjoyed working with archives, which I hadn’t done before, and would like to do more archival research in future.

What do you plan to do after university?

My aim is to work with others so that disabled people are more visible, included and not ignored. I’d like to spark more conversations relating to disability, including urgent issues of disability rights. I hope to work in partnership, with disabled and non-disabled artists, to this end. I’ll also be making my own opportunities with ideas for projects that I’d like to pursue, including research-based projects, once I’ve finished studying. MA Curation Practices has given me a great foundation for this.