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Developing audience engagement and diversity in the arts

installation view of Analogue (Mail) exhibition in a living room
  • Written byTyrone Huggins
  • Published date22 February 2021
installation view of Analogue (Mail) exhibition in a living room

Celina Loh graduated from MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea in 2020.

Examining curating as a dialogue-based strategy in arts education, Celina’s work delves into the relevance and ideals of radical pedagogy in collaborative community practices.

We caught up with Celina to find out more about her practice, the work she is showing on the MA Graduate Showcase as well as how the pandemic has helped her to develop her skills as a curator on digital platforms.

Can you please describe your practice?

My curatorial practice is centred around art and the public realm. For my dissertation, I explored the discrepancies between claims made about addressing a wider public and the realities of target audiences in site-specific curatorial practice.

My main interest, however, lies in the conjunction of curating and education. Examining the relationship between confines of art institutions and the ideals of radical pedagogy, I am interested in how radical pedagogical strategies could be implemented within institutional programmes to develop a more inclusive space for audience engagement in the arts.

Photograph of instillation display with interactive drawing activity
No horizon, no edge to liquid, 2020. Participants drawing works by Varda Caivano (left) and Laura Lima (right) at Workshop: Drawing with Richard Ayodeji Ikhide at Zabludowicz Collection, London. Photo: Celina Loh - Credit: Celina Loh Caption

How have you adapted your practice for working outside of the studio/college since the pandemic began?

Understanding that curating exhibitions may not be similar to how it used to be for a while, I have been researching different frameworks of digital curating, analysing what they mean to my practice, audiences and accessibility and the presentation of different artworks and collections.

I also reflected on my digital skills - knowing that I would heavily rely on them now - and made a list on what needs improving and learning. With this, I have been watching and taking up online courses/tutorials to develop skills in Adobe Creative Suite, website design and development and I am currently learning to use SketchUp.

I implemented these developed skills within our MA Graduate Showcase, a personal curatorial project in May and an online exhibition curated for my curatorial residency with the AntiMA Brighton. The AntiMA Brighton is a peer-led, collaborative arts education programme based in Brighton, founded in 2019 by artist, writer and curator Grace Madeleine Slater. As part of my residency with them in 2020, I’ve designed websites, mail exhibitions and interactive features.

But most importantly, I’ve gained a better understanding of my practice on technological platforms. It has been quite a steep learning but I’m quite glad this opportunity came along, otherwise I would never have delved into digital curating!

Screenshot of ‘History’ themed page
Ballets Russes: Concealed Histories, 2020, MA Curating and Collections (MACC), Chelsea College of Arts, London. Photo by Celina Loh. - Credit: Celinah Loh Caption

Please tell us more about the work you are showing on the MA Graduate Showcase.

My Graduate Showcase features a selection of my proudest online and offline curatorial projects undertaken during my degree. It ranges from MA Shows and Exhibition Studio Workshop Projects which are constituents of the course, to 2 exhibitions curated as part of residencies, where I’ve worked with various art collections, archive and contemporary artists.

In my MA Graduate Showcase submission, I have included images for each project presented, displaying installation images of the exhibitions and their public programmes. I have also linked to the online curatorial projects I’ve worked on so that audiences can visit those beyond the MA Showcase site.

 Installation view at Exhibition Studio Workshop (ESW)
Objectivity: a constellation of ideas, objects and people, 2020, Chelsea College of Arts, London. Photo by Seowon Nam. - Credit: Celinah Loh Caption

Have you got any future creative plans, projects or opportunities you'd like to share with us?

Following my residency with the AntiMA Brighton, I was selected to curate an exhibition at SET space, Bermondsey - but due to Covid 19, unfortunately it had to be cancelled.

I am currently working as a gallery assistant at Wei-Ling Contemporary in Malaysia at which I am developing curatorial projects, social media content and doing editing/writing work.

I am also supporting artist Arabel Lebrusan (also known as Rossillo de Blas) with the development of the exhibition Blunt Blades at the Higgins Bedford which was due to be opened in summer.

Installation view at Zabludowicz Collection
No horizon, no edge to liquid, 2020,, London. Photo by Tim Bowditch - Credit: Celina Loh Caption

Do you have any advice for students considering studying on your course?

Set high, personal ambitions for yourself and live up to them. But never forget that we are all only human and we are prone to mistakes at the end of the day - don’t beat yourself up,  learn from them.  I find that that mistakes may give you more valuable lessons than a successful decision.

And the most importantly, nothing ever goes as planned in curating, so always be prepared for problems, whether small or substantial!

Find out more about MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts