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Student Profile: Frances Bailey, MA Curating & Collections


Written by
Published date
11 December 2015

We catch up with MA Curating and Collections student Frances Bailey as she talks about the recent exhibitions she has worked on as part of the course.

The Reading Room at CHELSEA Space

The Reading Room at CHELSEA Space

Describe your experience at Chelsea in three words. 

Insightful, supportive, inspirational.

What do you enjoy most about studying at Chelsea?         

The campus is beautiful, and the tutors on my course are fantastic.

Where do you live at the moment and what do you enjoy most about being in London?

I live in Kennington so it is only a short walk to uni. The thing I enjoy most about living in London is having access to such a creative and cultural city.

What are you are working on at the moment?

Myself and a group of fellow students have just created the first ever reading room at our onsite gallery, Chelsea Space. This was our first major practical project for the MA Curating & Collections course, and it was an honour to be part of the team curating this space for the first time!

Our project entitled ‘Work from the Collections #6: Protest, Performance, Body’ is a response to the current exhibition in Chelsea Space: ‘CAN DO: Photographs and other material from the Women’s Art Library Magazine Archive’, curated by Mo Throp and Maria Walsh.  It serves as a space for commentary on current dialogues around art and feminism. As well as books, we have collected other materials including original artworks from Jenny Holzer, a collection of independent publications, footage from performance artists featured in the main exhibition as well as current practitioners, plus a feminist poster display and further objects from the Women’s Art Library archive housed at Goldsmiths University, London.

We have also scheduled a couple of programmed events to take place in the reading room: ‘What we do is Secret: the female voice expressed as through zines – a reading group’ which took place on Friday 11th December, hosted by Leila Kassir and her team from the London College of Communications library, and ‘Protest, Performance, Body – SCREENINGS & DICUSSIONS’ which features the work of Suzannah Pettigrew and Hope Plescia, as well as a discussion with artist and curator Diana Chires.


What has been your greatest challenge so far on the course and how have you overcome it?         

As you can see, we have created an action-packed space with our project in the Chelsea space reading room, and this was an ambitious task! As a team we were all very passionate about the CAN DO exhibition, so we each had a lot to contribute. At first we probably set ourselves a little too much to accomplish, but I firmly believe that if you aim high you will achieve great things. If you can’t do all of them, that’s cool! A lot of curating is about editing.

What have been your greatest achievements during your time at Chelsea?

I have only been at Chelsea for one term, but what we have achieved with the reading room for me, has been amazing. The pace really steps up when you get onto Masters level study, and there isn’t much time to waste! There is something pretty rewarding about the fast pace, and how much you can put together in a small amount of time. We only have one year here at Chelsea – it’s about making the most of it!

What do you see yourself doing after you graduate?

My main area of research is the mediating roles of the curator. I am really interested in gallery education and what institutions can teach us, and how they can help us to think about the world in a different way. In her essay ‘Turning’, Irit Rogoff describes these spaces as ‘the site of possibility, the site of potentiality’ – I find this notion fascinating, and it is the starting point of my research. I would love to work in the education department of a large institution like Tate. I mean, they have rocket ship backpacks filled with materials for kids! How fun is that?

What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing your course? Any advice?

I would say you should definitely try to come to an open day. There are lots of courses around London that focus on curating, and each one is different. It really is about finding the right one for you. What I like about our course at Chelsea is that they balance the practical element with the theory, and this allows us to gain the skills we will need once we graduate.

You can find out more about Fran’s work on Twitter: @FrancesBailey_ and instagram: @iamfrancesbailey

Find out more about MA Curating & Collections.