MA Studentship with York Art Gallery: Grace England (2020-21)

Grace England was awarded the 2020-21 Friends of York Art Gallery Research Scholarship, which provides a bursary and an internship at York Art Gallery.

Here she describes her richness of her experience, despite the challenges caused by the pandemic.  Grace was supervised by curator of fine art, Becky Gee, and supported by the Friends of York Art Gallery (FYAG).

I was extremely fortunate to have been awarded the Friends of York Art Gallery MA studentship with bursary during my Art History Masters at the University of York. The studentship had of course to adjust to the year’s circumstances and I am most grateful that the gallery team and Friends have made such efforts to make me feel included in current and ongoing projects within the gallery.

During the months of lockdown, I had regular contact with my lovely supervisor Becky and took part in some remote research and writing projects, as well as social media engagement. This involved an Instagram takeover and writing articles on mythology in art history and female art collectors for the York Museums Trust blog. I also researched and wrote an ‘Artwork of the Month’ essay for the FYAG on the Portrait of Lady Charlotte Fitzroy by Peter Lely in the York Art Gallery collection.

During these secluded months, when I could not physically visit the gallery, I was still made to feel like one of the team and was invited to sit in and take part in FYAG meetings and discuss what I would like to work on with Becky and Charles. One of my most rewarding and educational experiences was my archival research project on two eighteenth-century society portraits within the collection – Elizabeth Betts (Mrs Benjamin Hoadley) by William Hogarth and Jean Abercromby, Mrs Morison of Haddo by Allan Ramsay. I was granted rare access to the gallery’s private archives and wrote a report on my findings and interpretations which was then published on the FYAG website.

Once the gallery was able to open, I was lucky enough to be involved in three different exhibition installations/deinstallations from April to July – Michael Lyons: Ancient and Modern, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, and the Antony Shaw collection with COCA. This allowed me to work closely with the team and collection and offered me unique insight into exhibition set-up, curation and artwork conservation. I am hugely grateful to have had the chance to work on all three of these projects with the gallery team, who made me feel very welcome and assisted me with getting to grips with the everyday workings of the gallery.

Despite limitations due to the pandemic, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working with the York Art Gallery and FYAG, it has been most instructive, and I would encourage any MA student to apply for the studentship.

Both the Gallery and the Friends were an enormous support during a very difficult year and provided me with some wonderful opportunities and memories, as well as highly useful experiences and skills to carry with me into my career. I send my thanks out to everyone who was involved in my participation in the studentship, especially Tim Ayers for encouraging me to apply; Charles Martindale, Chair of the FYAG; and Becky Gee and Helen Walsh of York Art Gallery.

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