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Outreach and schools

Our outreach activities take varied forms from public engagement and BBC co-productions to open access resources and knowledge exchange with schools. If you’d like to have any of us give a talk in a school assembly or community project, do get in touch!

School Resources:

Working with Pearson and the National Extension College, our Open Arts Objects project has over 50 open access films that are used in the teaching of Art History at A-level. These films are also used world-wide to support the teaching of Art History in universities. Filmed in a number of museums across the country from the Victoria and Albert Museum and Windsor Castle to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and National Museum Wales, these films offer virtual handling sessions, bringing the museum into the classroom.

We have also visited schools in the UK as part of our outreach activities. Hear what the students have to say:

Open Access resources:

Open Arts Archive: a live and open archive providing free access to a wealth of artistic, cultural and educational resources, including talks, seminars, study days, artists’ podcasts, artist interviews, curators’ talks and exhibitions (including all our Open Arts Objects films).

Open Arts Journal: An open access journal, our dissemination is global, spanning multiple communities including practitioners and historians of art, architecture and design, curators and arts policy-makers, and researchers in the arts and heritage sectors.

Open Learn: Free short courses on Art History. From Renaissance Venice and Dutch painting of the golden age to the Mexican muralism.

We’ve also created a teaching toolkit for making your own Open Arts Objects film.

Educational resources: in addition to our open access resources, we author numerous textbooks in Art History, from Art in Theory to the series on Art and its Global Histories.

Museums and Heritage: working as curators and with curators, and with education officers and volunteers, we engage the public through our research from projects that aim to decolonise the museum to those that support education programmes in museums. Our pathways to impact through public engagement also involve public talks at museums and heritage institutions ranging from Foxcombe Hall, Oxford to Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

BBC co-productions: Our research underpins our roles as academic advisors on co-production of BBC programmes.

  • 2018 Civilizations: In 2017-18, Kathleen Christian and Gill Perry served as academic consultants for the 9-part BBC series Civilisations produced in partnership with the OU, reaching over 13.7 million viewers.
  • 2020 Secrets of the Museum: Clare Taylor and Leon Wainwright were the Academic advisers for this 6-part series in 2020, reaching over 6 million viewers.
  • 2020 Age of the Image: In 2019-20, Susie West was an Academic co-adviser for the four-part BBC series Age of the Image. This was an interdisciplinary production with the support of FASS and STEM.

Keynotes, public engagement talks, and conferences: Our research is regularly presented internationally, as members of the department are frequently invited to speak as keynotes, conference participants, or invited speakers.

The impact of our work in Art History and Design is reflected in the long history of these two disciplines’ strengths at the OU. In the run-up to the OU’s half century in 2019-20, we held two notable conferences exploring our own history and place in forming the cross-disciplinary subject area of Art History and Design. In 2015 ‘40 Years On: The Domain of Design History – Looking Back Looking Forward’ (Convenor: Elizabeth McKellar) and in 2019 ‘Revisiting Modern Art and Modernism at the OU’, (Convenors: Amy Charlesworth and Honorary Associate Veronica Davies) both looked at the contributions of our courses in these areas, with keynotes from leaders in the discipline such as Anne Wagner, TJ Clark and Brioney Fer discussing their role in collaborating with the department. ‘40 Years On’ also resulted in a collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) exploring the OU’s pioneering role as ‘the University of the Air’ in relation to modern architecture. This co-partnership produced in a significant online programme of films and an international travelling exhibition held in Montréal, November 2017-April 2018 and then Belem Cultural Centre (CCB), Lisbon, Feb - May 2019.

The Medieval and Early Modern Research Group co-chaired by Leah Clark hosts an annual international conference every year, while members of the department have long been involved in Marxism in Culture, UCL (co-chaired by Warren Carter).

Activism, Artists and Community groups:  True to our radical mission members of the department have also been involved in a number of projects relating to art and activism including: Tate Exchange; Counterpoint Arts; The Showroom, London; Pavilion, Leeds; and Meeting Point, Leeds. These projects, run in conjunction with a diverse range of communities, charities and galleries, have included working with migrant workers and refugees, and female domestic workers. Charlesworth acted as ​co-producer and research consultant on the Film, They Call Us Maids: The Domestic Workers’ Story, 2015 an animated film (scripted and animated by Leeds Animation Workshop) about migrant domestic workers and modern-day slavery, that has won three international awards and was shortlisted for the AHRC Research in Film awards (2016). Work in this area continues to develop as we respond to pressing societal and economic issues. During COVID-19 in 2020, Beyond the Now became a digital platform where artists and other professionals working in community activism could share insights, experiences and responses (Kim Charnley). Beside the OU, partners include Tate Exchange; Counterpoint Arts (UK); Ettijahat (Beirut); Create (Ireland); Coculture (Berlin); Plymouth College of Art; and Mozilla fest (USA).

Social Media: We love our discipline and our enthusiasm shines through on social media. We post a work of art every Mondays for #materialmondays. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, & YouTube!

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