Student Ambassador, Isabella Dabby, reflects on this year’s Year 12 Art History Summer University. Isabella recently completed a Graduate Diploma at The Courtauld, and will be starting her MA in October 2015.
On the first day of this year’s Summer University, nearly thirty A-level students from across London climbed The Courtauld’s spiral staircase and took their seats within the lecture theatre. Just three days later, these students delivered confident and thought-provoking presentations before their peers, parents and teachers.
Thanks to the efforts of Dr Katie Faulkner and the Public Programmes team, a busy timetable was devised to ensure the students gained a real insight into what studying Art History at The Courtauld is like. Inspiring lectures from Dr Alixe Bovey and Professor Joanna Woodall introduced them to the excitement of art historical research, whilst an energetic morning studying and handling Iranian art objects with Dr Sussan Babaie got the students thinking about art beyond the West.
Alongside this, seminars from Dr Caroline Levitt and Dr Natalia Murray provoked discussion amongst the group on topics as varied as the impact of the industrial revolution on Cubism, to the influence of fashion and poetry on art.
At the start of the course, the students were asked to bring along and discuss an image of their choice with their peers, organising themselves into groups according to their identification of common themes. Using The Courtauld collection as a source of further inspiration, they were then tasked with developing a virtual exhibition proposal. To help them with this they saw a range of exhibitions, with a tour from Dr Karen Serres, curator at The Courtauld Gallery, a tour at the Ben Uri Gallery, and a visit to Tate Britain. Finally, the students were given the chance to discuss their ideas with this year’s MA Curating students. They were asked to think critically about their experiences in these galleries as they developed their projects and undertook further group research within the The Courtauld’s specialist art library.
Leaving no stone unturned and proving that art history isn’t just about lectures, libraries and quiet museums, a trip to the conservation studio proved a highlight for many of the students, who were asked to look beyond the theory and consider works of art as physical objects. For those students undertaking a mixture of science and arts A-levels, the experience showed them just how varied careers relating to Art History can be.
As a student ambassador helping out on this year’s course, it was a pleasure to witness the students embrace the challenges thrown at them and watch their understanding of Art History, curation and conservation grow so rapidly over just four days. Even the awkwardly-timed tube strike did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the group, who ended up having to walk the two miles journey to Tate Britain, in order to explore and critique the Barbara Hepworth exhibition.
One student said to me that before coming to the Summer University, she hadn’t just been confused about which course to study, but whether she even wanted to go to university at all. By the end of the week she reckoned that getting a degree would be worth the time and money, so long as she studied a subject she really loved. To me that summed up what the Summer University is all about, and is what makes me so proud to have been a part of it. It is a unique opportunity for inquisitive students to gain an understanding of what going to university is all about: meeting like-minded people, exploring new ideas and challenging yourself within a fun and supportive environment.
For more information about Summer University see here or contact Meghan Goodeve/ Helen Higgins, Oak Foundation Young People’s Programme Coordinator (job-share), on email@example.com or 0207 848 1058.