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Libby Paterson and Holly Watson

Libby Paterson and Holly Watson, recipients of the 2012-13 mima Partnership Studentships


Libby Paterson (left) and Holly Watson, were the 2012-13 (and first) recipients of mima Partnership Studentships. They found their placements at mima gave them unique and valuable practical experience of working in a gallery, and the opportunity to make a very real contribution.

Original interview

What are you currently working on?

‎Libby: "During my placement I have mainly been working on an upcoming exhibition of postwar British art and design. As the show is not scheduled to open until 2014 I have been able to take part in the entire exhibition process and learn what is involved from planning to completion. The exhibition will be the longest running in mima’s history and it includes some renowned artworks so it’s been really exciting to be involved and encouraged to input my ideas into such a high profile project."

What has been the highlight of your work at mima so far?

Holly: "The highlight so far has been putting together proposals to buy artworks and finding out that my applications led to the acquisition of new work."

What experiences would you say have been most useful or unexpected?

Libby: "It has been interesting to see how long it takes to plan an exhibition and the way in which galleries interact with one another. I have learnt how the art world operates as a network, which I think will be really useful for my future career."

Holly: "It was really useful being involved in a discussion with the curators on where they wanted to hang works for an exhibition. It was really interesting seeing how decisions on the hang of a show took place, certain limitations, learning about sight lines and how best to hang an exhibition to get across the concept of the show."

Who do you work with and how does the institution make use of you?

Libby: "I have worked closely with mima’s curator Alix Collingwood who is leading the ‘Art and Optimism in the 1950s’ exhibition. I have mainly been working in a research capacity, but using my knowledge in a very different way to my postgraduate studies. It is great to have another perspective on how an art-historical education can be made use of in terms of exhibition curation and interpreting a gallery’s collection."

Holly: "I work with the mima’s curators James Beighton and Alix Collingwood as well as their education and audience development manager Marie Neeson. I have an interest in drawing and as a result James has put on projects involved in this area, such as mima’s recent ‘Tracing the Century’ exhibition."

What do you value most about your experience with the institution?

Libby: "Being able to have such an input into an exhibition and working with artworks that are normally confined to the computer screen or library book. At mima I get the chance to think about art as a reality, for example forming research proposals which led to the purchase of artworks for the gallery’s permanent collection."

Holly: "I most value being able to really contribute to projects at mima. It is not a placement where you just shadow people, but one where you are actually involved in the work taking place and able to make a significant impact."

How has your work with mima enhanced your studies at York?

Libby: "I have gained a real insight into curation practices which very much helped when doing a module run by Tate. I have also been able to make contacts through my work at mima, which have been really beneficial to the research of my dissertation so far. The film I am hoping to look at in my dissertation we are also looking to exhibit at mima, and in this way the studentship can sometimes give you the unique opportunity to see your research interests played out in a gallery space. I also recently got to attend a conference in Newcastle on Richard Hamilton and Victor Pasmore on behalf of mima which has fed into my own research."

Holly: "Having had gallery experience at mima proved valuable whilst doing the Tate module, which was focused on exhibitions. For the module I wrote an essay on two works held by Tate that were in an exhibition at mima at the time."

Do you feel it has been helpful with career planning or improved your job prospects, and if yes, how?

Libby: "It’s definitely helped me to plan my career in the sense that I have gained experience across the gallery’s different departments — from education to marketing — so I am better aware of the various roles that are available in this field. Further to this I have been able to significantly contribute to the projects that I have worked on, so that I can demonstrate to employers that whilst achieving my MA I also applied my knowledge in a practical setting. I already feel like I will have much more to show employers this time around than when I finished my undergraduate degree, much of this is down to experience gained at mima."

Holly: "It has improved my job prospects by giving me experience in working with the curators of a reputable institute that without the partnership I would not have been able to get. It is helpful with career planning because it has given me an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at an art institution and the range of jobs that are out there in the running of museums and galleries."

Would you recommend it to future students?

Libby: "Absolutely, each of the partnership studentships are a fantastic opportunity for students in terms of funding as well as the work place experience they offer. mima offers an especially good opportunity for students looking to build a career in contemporary art, as they have an underestimated collection as well as a great programme of exhibitions which the students taken on are encouraged to contribute ideas to alongside permanent curators."

Holly: "I would recommend a partnership to future students. It offers students a great opportunity to get hands on experience in an institution that will improve your job prospects in the future."

What happened next?

Libby (April 2014):

"Since graduating from the History of Art MA I have continued to see the benefits of gaining valuable arts sector experience through my studentship placement at mima. I proceeded to work on the exhibition I was involved in at mima on a freelance basis, writing gallery guides in collaboration with fellow partnership student Holly Watson. I also found my experience at the gallery helped me to get other museum work. I have since worked at the V&A on a photographs collection project in partnership with Black Cultural Archives. The network of professional contacts I made during the placement at mima and on the course has also continued to be useful."

Holly (May 2014):

"Upon completing my MA I got a paid, fixed term job for 12 months as a Trainee Curatorial Officer at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments Scotland, working with their great collection of drawings, photographs and manuscripts. The History of Art MA and the Student Partnership with mima put me in good stead to get relevant employment after graduation. Working for mima provided me with excellent hands on experience researching collections for exhibitions, writing texts and working in a cultural environment that was highly transferrable to my current role where I spend a lot of time researching and cataloguing collections."

It is great to have another perspective on how an art-historical education can be made use of in terms of exhibition curation and interpreting a gallery’s collection.

Libby Paterson, 2012-13 mima Partnership Studentship

It has given me an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at an art institution and the range of jobs that are out there in the running of museums and galleries.

Holly Watson, 2012-13 mima Partnership Studentship