In conversation with Chelsea College of Arts, MA Curating and Collections 2020 graduate and ‘In Transit’ founder Celina Loh
Celina Loh studied Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, graduating in 2020. We took a closer look at her big project 'In Transit': a non-profit platform that supports artists who are interested in making their work more accessible.
You studied MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, graduating in 2020. How did you come to choose that course?
Before studying at Chelsea, I was a practicing artist. At that time I was part of a Lancaster-based, collective called Up North Arts, which gives North-western artists the opportunity to exhibit their work. That was when I really started curating and organising exhibitions. It made me realise that I enjoy collective work more than focusing on my own. I liked putting different concepts together, and researching how art is historically produced, and entwined with the socio-economic and political dynamics of its time. My experience working at the Peter Scott Gallery and at The Higgins confirmed that for me. I choose MA Curating and Collections because it offered me the opportunity to engage with different collections within the UAL Archives and Special Collections Centre, as well as throughout UAL. The course was also very practical: it allowed me to experiment with different curatorial strategies and sharpen my skills. I also wanted to work closely with the Chelsea Space team by supporting them with their exhibitions. The course covered curating objects and contemporary art - it aligned with my short to long-term goals at the time. I don’t regret my decision one bit.
What would you highlight about your experience at Chelsea College of Arts?
There are so many that it’s hard to pick just one…I remember the tutors being very supportive, and UAL being a very encouraging environment where I was free to experiment; from the course programme, to people at Chelsea and the library resources. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Chelsea Space, as well as with other host institutions such as Flat Time House. I also met and spoke to some of my favourite curators and artists such as Robert Storr and Joseph Kosuth. I learned so much in one year.
But the key highlight for me was experiencing online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. I know it might sound a strange thing to say but I am genuinely grateful that I was able to experience both sides of education. If the pandemic had not happened, I would not have been pushed to consider online and hybrid exhibition making, for which I received the support and guidance from my tutors I needed. It was a key turning point in my curatorial practice which has led me to where I am today.
Tell us more about 'In Transit' and the story behind it.
I’ve always wanted to contribute to making the arts more accessible because access to art should be a right and not a privilege. When I was 13, an accident left me deaf in my left ear, and that caused me to struggle in some social situations. So I have always wondered how people with disabilities experience art and their everyday life. I have researched access to arts within the gallery and public space, looking into audience engagement, access, and care, as well as multisensory and multimodal practices. Working in the visual arts sector, I often felt frustrated that accessibility was usually treated as an add-on, so I wanted to make a change. To increase access to arts, creatives should also think about how to integrate accessibility into their work, which is the reason why In Transits offers online programmes to artists looking at how to make their work more accessible for disabled people. After a year of preparation, we launched in January 2022 and successfully delivered pilot residencies that have supported seven artists across the UK, Spain, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
One of the major challenges you have/had to face as a young entrepreneur?
A major challenge for me is self-doubt. There are so many things to learn as an entrepreneur. You have to make difficult decisions, and this coupled with financing the business while working freelance is hard work. On some days when things got tough, I would feel lonely and lose confidence in my abilities, which then made me feel afraid of taking risks. Thankfully I have the support of my family, friends, business partner, and of the ‘In Transit’s community, which reminds me I’m doing the right thing. Also speaking with other young entrepreneurs has been fundamental, as you learn that everyone is going through similar challenges, and you have to take things one step at a time. It also helps me to look at my progress and how far I’ve come. I am definitely learning how to embrace my self-doubt and turn it into motivation, rather than a defeat.
What’s next for you and for 'In Transit'?
We are currently preparing to welcome a new cohort of resident artists ‘Training Residency: Making your art accessible’, to train artists how to integrate accessibility in their work. From captions and audio descriptions to multi-sensory practices, to ensure their online presence is accessible to disabled people too. As our online course and residency run all year round, we have been planning our very first in-person exhibition which will happen at the end of the year. So follow us on social media at @intransit_space to stay updated!
Discover more about In Transit: https://intransit.space/
Apply for In Transit's current RESIDENCY opportunity: https://intransit.space/programmes/residency
Follow In Transit on Instagram: @intransit_space