I’m Gill Crawshaw and I’m doing an MA in Curation Practices at Leeds Arts University. I’m studying full time, Sept 2017 – August 2018.

This marks a huge life change for me, because for the last 30 years or so I’ve been working in a range of jobs that weren’t art related: social care, disability equality, mental health. I’ve worked for the council and in the third sector.

I’ve enjoyed my working life and it’s been a wrench to leave that behind. But I’m excited to be moving on to a fantastic new opportunity.

Curation Practices is a new MA at Leeds Arts University, which also has a new name; it was Leeds College of Art before. The course covers the expansive field of curation, in the arts and heritage sectors, and beyond.

Read all about the MA in Curation Practices on Leeds Arts University’s website.

So, how have I ended up here?

My practical experience of curating is founded on a long engagement with disability arts and activism, starting in the 1980s, shortly after I graduated, with a degree in textile design, and not very long after I became disabled.

I launched myself into curating a few years ago by drawing on organisational and project management skills developed over my career. Now I’m after some theoretical understanding and background to improve my practice. 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 about disability rights. I think I can do this effectively working in the arts, alongside disabled and non-disabled artists.

I have organised two exhibitions in Leeds, The Reality of Small Differences in 2014 and Shoddy in 2016. Both were disability arts exhibitions, featuring the work of disabled artists. Both were exhibitions where textiles featured in all the artwork.

My original intention for The Reality of Small Differences was to make a statement about access to the arts for disabled people. (You can read some press coverage here). However, it became a significant exhibition in its own right and demonstrated an appetite in Leeds for engaging with high quality work by disabled artists.

Shoddy (https://shoddyexhibition.wordpress.com/) was a large project which centred on an exhibition in Leeds in April 2016. Challenging assumptions that disabled artists’ work, and our-selves, are inferior, second-rate or badly made, Shoddy was framed against the background of cuts to welfare benefits and public services that disproportionately affect disabled people. The project asserted that this treatment of disabled people is, in fact, “shoddy”.

Shoddy went on to include two further exhibitions, a publication, workshops, talks and stalls at Artists’ Book Fairs at the Tetley and the Baltic.

Throughout 2015 I volunteered at Inkwell (Leeds Mind’s centre for creativity and wellbeing), organising their varied exhibition programme.

All my recent curation has been carried out whilst also working full time. Now I intend to focus on study. This MA is going to challenge me and expand my knowledge. I intend to make the most of it and enjoy it!


Posts created to cover MA Curation Practices course modules: