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The pilot programme will “challenge accepted barriers” in one of the sector’s least inclusive professions.

Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries participants
Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries participants

Outroslide Photography

A new curatorial programme for early-career visual artists will address an “acute crisis” of poor social mobility in the sector.

Ten curators will take part in the Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator programme, each supported with mentoring, training and research from one of eight host organisations. 

Jerwood Arts Director Lilli Giessendorfer says the 12-month pilot will build on the charity’s work tackling social mobility in the arts.


Its ongoing programmes include the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries, which funds 51 fellows working across 50 arts organisations.

The Curatorial Accelerator programme aims to address three key barriers entering curating from a lower socio-economic background: dwindling access to postgraduate degrees, the prominence of unpaid internships and a lack of financial support to network, research and view work independently.

The visual arts sector is traditionally one of the hardest creative industries to enter without access to personal finances.

Research from the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre published last month found 60% of people working in visual arts, music and performing come from a privileged background, the second highest across the creative industries behind adversiting and marketing.

22% of visual arts workers came from a working-class background, the lowest across all areas surveyed.

Jerwood Arts’ Head of Visual Arts Harriet Cooper told ArtsProfessional the programme will help develop important but underrepresented voices. 

“A lot of curators are spending their own time and money seeing work to support their professional development and that opportunity is not there for everyone, so we are looking to enable the fellows to get that experience and see more work around the UK.”

The project has received £100,000 from Arts Council England’s Transforming Leadership Programme, £50,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and in-kind support from the Art Fund.

Diverse programming

Curators act as gatekeepers to the diversity of art programmed across the UK, Jerwood Arts says. 

Its fellows will have space to research their own interests and hopefully shape future collections that are more broadly representative of the UK. 

Cooper said she is excited to work with the group and “take a lead with what they want from it”.

Selection will follow an intersectional approach to ensure voices from minority backgrounds are represented. 

Alison Holdom, Arts & Heritage Lead at the Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation, said this focus will help ”challenge accepted barriers”.

Nationwide focus

Jerwood Arts is in talks with prospective hosts and expects to announce confirmed partners this autumn.

All host organisations are likely to be located outside of London, to bolster job opportunities and creative programming beyond the capital.

Cooper said Jerwood Arts wants hosts that can offer networks with local arts communities so the fellows understand how curatorial practice influences audiences’ experience of the arts.

She said the organisations should share its interest in inclusive curatorial practice and “what the visual arts sector could look like in the next 10 to 15 years if we increase that”.

Host organisations will be included in an open call for fellows scheduled for spring 2022.