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Kirsten Cooke - Curating the Short Course Exhibition

Written by Jasmin Woolley-Butler
Published date 28 August 2019

Register for the Short Course exhibition - Spaces In-Between

Ahead of next week’s short course exhibition, we sat down with short course tutor and exhibition curator Kirsten Cooke, to talk about the rationale behind the exhibition and how students on the Curating Contemporary Art course in August have played a vital role in shaping the exhibition.

The Curating Course

Kirsten first gave us a quick introduction to the 5 day Curating Contemporary Art Short Course, explaining that ‘In that time, we cover a variety of topics and aspects of curating. This primarily revolves around 3 key areas.’

These key areas, Kirsten explains, begin with exploring the History of curatorial practice and ‘curating in its contemporary form’, both of which are introduced through tutor lead lectures. The next key area is explored by offsite visits, allowing students to experience a range of institutions, the variety of curatorial roles, and exhibition design strategies. Students will also meet industry professionals during these visits. The final key area is a number of practice-based workshops. ‘This allows you to get the practical element of curating and students work towards an exhibition proposal that you then present on the final day.’

The Short Course Exhibition

Kirsten explains that the purpose of the short course exhibition is to celebrate students who have undertaken short courses and the work they have created.

‘Seeing the short courses as the backbone - the platform or springboard for future practice. These courses provide you with tools and skills but not the final result – instead, they actually trigger a new process and a new future for each student.’

Kirsten says the process began with a call for submissions; ‘We had an open call for the students that had been on Chelsea, Camberwell or Wimbledon Colleges of Art Short Courses to submit a work that they felt represented their journey after their short course.’

Students submitting were not ‘restricted to work made during the course’ but could choose to submit a piece made after their course that ‘used the tools learned’.

For Kirsten ‘This is very exciting.’  She expands on this saying ‘the short course exhibition is a way to showcase and bring together the different disciplines, different approaches and the different stories of each student. The idea is the show will have a theme of ‘journey’ within it.’

The next stage of exhibition planning was to select the final artworks, from the many student submissions made. Kirsten explains ‘a group of short course tutors and academics who teach at Chelsea College of Arts got together to select the art and cultural artefacts that are going to be on show for this exhibition.’ Kirsten said panel did not have a strong set of criteria for selecting work, but it was important to represent the wide range of courses taught across a number of different subject areas.

Curating Contemporary Art

Designing the Exhibition with Curating Contemporary Art Students

Once the final 35 pieces had been selected, it was over to the students on the August session of Curating Contemporary Art, which was underway when we spoke to Kirsten.

She told us that the ‘theme of ‘Journey’ has become the main stimulus for the curating contemporary art course this week’ and the curating students ‘have been working on approaches to staging the artworks that were selected by the exhibition panel.’

Students have been introduced to the site and have been given a number of ‘art objects or cultural artefacts’ and ‘design processes’ to work with when developing proposals for the exhibition.

The curating students ‘had to come up with an exhibition strategy, a press release, a layout and floorplan.’ Students also had to think about design strategies, thinking about ‘anything they wanted fabricating to house the artworks and finally a publicity campaign.’

Kirsten said ‘It is very exciting, as I speak they are about to present tomorrow and from the designs presented, the exhibition will be inspired.’

After this, the exhibition will take shape ‘ from what the students brought forward.’

Kirsten explains this is a great opportunity for the curating students ‘because they get to infiltrate the show and their designs will also be on display as part of the exhibition.’


The Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon Short Course Exhibition will take place alongside the Chelsea MA Summer Show 2019. Please join us to celebrate and gain inspiration from the short course students Journey’s between 6 – 12 September.

Exhibition dates:
6 – 12 September 2019

Opening hours:
Saturday 11am - 4.30pm  |  Sunday closed  | Monday - Thursday 10am - 8pm

Private view: 
Friday 6 September  |  6pm – 9pm (last entry 8.40pm)

Chelsea College of Arts
16 John Islip Street
London
SW1P 4JU