Thinking Culture: Summative Reflection

Sally Wills is an MLitt Curatorial Practice (Contemporary Art) student from Liverpool. She is undertaking a work placement with Kevin Leomo, Community and Engagement Manager for the College of Arts & Humanities. Her research focuses on concepts of dwelling, domesticity and locality. 

From January to May 2024, I undertook a work placement at the University of Glasgow’s School of Culture and Creative Arts, Collaborations and Cultural Activities (C&CA) Committee, supervised by Dr. Kevin Leomo, the Community and Engagement Manager for the College of Arts and Humanities.

The C&CA Committee offers a varied programme of events and activities reflective of the University’s rich research culture, its Glaswegian roots and its international reach, under the banner of Thinking Culture. Events are open to all and free of charge. I also gained experience on other strands of the College Community and Engagement Team, including The Dear Green Bothy, the Laboratory for Civic Art Research (LCAR), and Hack the ARC: St Mungo’s Community Campus.

With such a diverse calendar of events taking place both within and outside of Glasgow University, the C&CA Committee presented me with an opportunity to observe first-hand how large-scale projects come to fruition. Being privy to the proposal aspect and production methods from the beginning until the outcome, I was able to witness to the positive audience impact at live events. Additionally, the placement allowed me to broaden my cultural experiences and develop a raised awareness of venues across Glasgow.

I attended film screenings, performances, exhibitions, workshops, artist talks and concerts including:

  1. CinemARC Borderzone (February 1st)
  2. Welcome Living Hearts (February 7th)
  3. Designing Future Experiences (February 8th– 15th)
  4. Sound Thought @ The GLAD Café (February 11th)
  5. Women’s Work (February 26th – March 8th)
  6. Public and Community Engagement Professionals Away Day (February 28th)
  7. FRAUD’s Artist Talk and LCAR Workshop (March 6th – 7th)
  8. Masks We Wear (March 25th – April 6th)
  9. St Mungo’s Community Campus, Hack the ARC Workshop (April 3rd)
  10. Give your Thoughts and Win (April 17th)
  11. 7 Theses 7 Songs (May 1st)
  12. Viral Communications (April 30th – May 3rd)
  13. St Mungo’s Community Campus, Hack the ARC Workshop (May 20th)

A key task set out during my work placement was to produce reflective written pieces about the events I was attending. I was able to contribute to Thinking Culture’s website and their public communication channels by submitting the reflective pieces to coincide with and support the event listings. I would go into detail about the event’s structures and content in my reflections, along with key takeaways. It was crucial to keep the content concise and accessible for public audiences. I was very honoured to be given the space to do this, as having my work published online gives me proficiency as a writer and researcher. I was able to contribute to the workplace by effectively documenting events, disseminating information, and promoting future Thinking Culture events.

If you would like to read my reflective articles, please see below:

  1. Reflection: Borderzone
  2. Reflection: FRAUD
  3. Reflection: Give your Thoughts and Win
Photograph from 7 Theses, 7 Songs (2024) in Webster’s Theatre
Photograph from 7 Theses, 7 Songs (2024) in Webster’s Theatre

I attended the Public and Community Engagement Professionals Away Day in Civic House on February 28th. I arrived early to help set up the event, organising materials and seating, and had the chance to speak with the facilitator to gain insights into workshop planning and facilitation. The workshop aimed to support the University’s new strategic focus on community engagement by fostering relationships and creating a peer support network amongst the Public Engagement Coordinators. It provided a space for creative idea generation, interdisciplinary work, and developing a shared vision for engagement at the University of Glasgow. I felt included throughout the workshop, which offered networking opportunities and insights into a professional working environment. A key goal identified was that staff wanted to oversee their projects from application to review. The event helped raise awareness of various projects happening across the University community and created an encouraging and hopeful atmosphere as a preliminary for future initiatives.

Currently co-leading a six-month design process for HACK THE ARC, Dr. Kevin Leomo and Dr. Zara Gladman, the Public and Community Engagement Manager from Research Services, are exploring civic engagement in the outdoor spaces around the Advanced Research Centre (ARC), particularly St Mungo Square. The St Mungo Community Campus workshops aim to generate ideas to activate the square. I attended the workshops on April 3rd and May 20th with university staff and community leaders. In line with C&CA Committee’s values, the workshop fostered an open, collaborative environment, allowing us to experiment and lay the groundwork for St Mungo Square’s future. I collaborated with others, contributed to the collective vision, networked, and enhanced my confidence in sharing my ideas.

It is the university’s social responsibility to champion community engagement. These workshops exemplify the university’s proactive approach, emphasising inclusivity, collaboration, and sustained involvement. Community-driven initiatives are crucial for providing a positive impact, enhancing the university’s reputation, building stronger relationships with local residents, and promoting the area as a cultural hub, thereby generating growth and increasing diversity.

Photograph of notice board collecting collaborative ideas on: “Who can benefit? And how?”
Photograph of Notice board collecting collaborative ideas on: “Who can benefit? And how?”

My own curatorial practice focuses on hosting community-benefiting workshops. Writing proposals is essential for this, and Thinking Culture accepts open call submissions from staff and post-graduate students, with Dr. Kevin Leomo reviewing them, alongside the wider C&CA Committee. Working with Kevin was a unique opportunity to enhance my proposal writing skills. He provided guidance on transforming research into practical formats, fitting ideas into open calls, and budgeting, emphasising collaboration with independent practitioners. This expert advice was supplemented by my first-hand experiences of the events themselves. Expanding on what I learnt in the placement, I produced a poster and publication outlining the proposal process into “The Brief, The Budget and The Impact”. This experience improved my ability to express ideas concisely and effectively, crucial for my future as a curator.

‘Successful Applications for Dummies’ poster I produced in response to my time during work placement at the C&CA Committee
‘Successful Applications for Dummies’ poster I produced in response to my time during work placement at the C&CA Committee

As my placement ends, I feel a sense of confidence and energy as I embark on my final semester project. I will be producing a series of three writing workshops titled Nothing to Write Home About, focused on ‘Home’ and memory within Glasgow locality. The workshops will fittingly be held in Glasgow’s Tenement House, allowing participants to engage with the museum’s collection and archive. The workshops will explore writing through the olfactory, speculative fiction and personification of domestic objects. No prior writing experience is needed, the emphasis is on playful experimentation. Participants, including New Scots, will contribute to a final publication featuring unique postcard designs. This project is supported by Thinking Culture.

Overall, my placement at The University of Glasgow’s Collaborations & Cultural Activities Committee has been incredibly educational and rewarding in many ways. I’ve witnessed the C&CA’s monumental impact on art and culture in Glasgow – placing community at its forefront, and valuing equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects. The team put a lot of effort into their itinerary of events for The Dear Green Bothy, Thinking Culture, and LCAR. The programmes are an asset to Glasgow: providing for the public, prizing its staff, and generously providing opportunities to those seeking to produce their own community-based practises.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here. It’s been an incredibly dynamic workplace; I was able to make the most out of it by utilising the C&CA’s resources, involving myself in the programme of activities, and writing reflective pieces. Throughout my time I have gained valuable transferable skills and achieved a sense of professionalism. Additionally, I have acquired knowledge which will benefit my own curatorial practice going forward.

Most importantly, I must thank Dr. Kevin Leomo, who has guided and advised me throughout my time during work placement. He has been an incredibly supportive host with a great sense of humour and has given me a valuable work experience. It’s been a privilege. I am left feeling excited about the future, particularly for my upcoming curatorial project. I know that I will continue to engage with Thinking Culture events and cherish the networks I have formed.

If you would like to continue following my curatorial journey, give my Instagram a follow: @sally_curates