Graduates 2023: Ellie Taylor: Visual Culture

My placement encouraged me to look into museum/gallery education and engagement as a potential career in the future.

Please tell us a bit about your work and your influences

BA (Hons) Visual Culture has allowed me to explore many interests. Over the three years, I have frequently focused on ways art institutions can be more accessible places for everyone to learn. The course has shown me the social impact that museums and galleries can have on communities, but also to question how more should be done. In a module I took in my third year, I investigated the career of a Museum Education Officer.

Image of poster about the role of the Museum Education Officer
Poster made by Ellie Taylor

I have recently finished my dissertation titled: ‘Art or Vandalism’: A Study of the Role of Graffiti in Society since the 1970s. I explored the controversial and ambiguous position of graffiti. It has been called everything from urban blight to creative expression, yet the most common phraseology is to inquire whether it is ‘art or vandalism’. The dissertation is not aiming to answer this subjective and unwinnable debate but rather unpack it using two cities.

The first chapter of the dissertation takes a historical approach, primarily analysing the 1970s and 80s New York City graffiti culture and early practitioners. The rest of the dissertation focuses on contemporary Brighton. I investigated the places graffiti occupies, legal and illegal, to discover the positive changing cultural attitudes and negative normative constructions towards graffiti.

The dissertation calls for a more contextualised and nuanced understanding of graffiti; it highlights how the binary opposition, ‘art or vandalism’, restricts people’s perception of graffiti. I believe it is about time that people considered the wider role of graffiti in society’s visual culture and how it brings lively debate to neglected city surfaces.

How have you found your course and what made you choose it?

I have enjoyed studying visual culture. That is not to say there were not challenging moments, but the lecturers on the course were so supportive and helped me to improve and achieve my best. I found that the course covers a range of past and contemporary topics. For example, I have written essays on; The Great Exhibition of 1851, discovered how the design of some urban spaces reflects power and identity, and investigated how museums can be more accessible for visually impaired people- to name a few. My journey to choosing the course was unconventional, I got the qualification to do Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), but due to COVID-19, I could not go. So, around a month before the visual culture course was due to start, my dad found it, and it looked perfect. I am very glad I decided to do it 😊

Was the location of Brighton more important than you thought it would be?

Brighton has been an important part of my learning on the course. It has been an inspiration for several of my essays and assessments. I have researched its music scene, used archives and museums throughout the city, and most recently, it played a crucial part in my dissertation as a case study. I have found it great living so close to the beach in such a vibrant and creative city while also being so close to London.

Did you do a placement? If so could you tell us a bit about it.

 Yes, I did a placement at Fabrica, a contemporary art gallery in Brighton. I thoroughly enjoyed it. My placement mainly consisted of working Front of House. I also attended exhibition strategy meetings and got involved with engagement events they put on alongside the exhibitions, such as CHOMP (a free creative lunch club run during the school holidays for children and families to have an opportunity to socialise, engage in making art linked to the current exhibition and eat a nutritious meal). I also joined the volunteer group, Activate, a project enabling volunteers to discuss, design, and develop activities and interactions with the public during exhibitions. Overall, the placement showed me how important it is for art institutions to have a strong learning programme. It encouraged me to look into museum/gallery education and engagement as a potential career in the future.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to do TEFL finally, hopefully somewhere in South East Asia. I would also love to do a Masters in the future, something I never thought I’d say, but the course and the lecturers have helped me realise my capability.

If you could give you 16 year old self any advice about going to University what would it be?

You can do it! Believe in yourself! There will be elements of university which are tough, but push through, and it will be worth it.

Personal email:

Instagram: @ele.taylor


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