Ordinary People

Whilst writing this blog post, I’ve had to stop several times to recognise and reflect on the theme of Ordinary People on International Holocaust Memorial Day. Ordinary People were involved in all aspects of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution of other groups, and in the genocides that took place in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Ordinary People were perpetrators, bystanders, rescuers, witnesses – and Ordinary People were, and still are, the victims.

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, School of Arts & Creative Industries

I recently returned from a trip to Southeast Asia which included several days in Cambodia, one of the most beautiful countries I have had the privilege to explore. I’m repeatedly asked the question “how was your holiday?”, but in all honesty it didn’t feel like a holiday – more a kind of fascinating but sobering history field trip. Our feet barely touched the ground. We travelled over 22,500 miles across Vietnam and Cambodia in 21 days, by aeroplane, bus, car and tuk tuk, and we walked over 65 miles. We hitched up our backpacks and boarded the overnight sleeper buses that the locals use. We visited UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Halong Bay and the Angkor Wat temple complex. We shared meals and had conversations with lots of Ordinary People that we met along the way, from Cambodia, Vietnam and all corners of the world.

Streetside conversations
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We visited the famous Angkor Wat temple site, rising at 4am to catch the sunrise over the temples – I climbed to the top of Angkor Wat and looked down on the stunning canopy of Cambodia before going on to visit the Bayon temple and the Ta Prohm Temple, where Tomb Raider was filmed. We swam beneath huge waterfalls and laughed and danced with the barefoot local children. We visited Hoa Lo Prison, aka the Hanoi Hilton, and learned of the appalling lives of the political prisoners who had the misfortune to be incarcerated there.

Ta Prohm Temple
Swimming beneath waterfalls in Cambodia

But by far the most moving site we visited was the Cambodia Landmine Museum. A tiny, outdoor collection in an area no bigger than the ground floor of your average 3-bedroomed house, which cost just $5 to enter (yes, the dominant currency in Cambodia is surprisingly USA dollars, although you’ll often get your change in Cambodian Riel). Here we learned of the atrocities of the Cambodia genocide and of the grim legacy left by the Khmer Rouge; the thousands of unexploded landmines still littering the rice fields, roads, and back yards of this war-ravaged country.

Cambodia Landmine Museum
Mr Aki Ra

We were humbled and honoured to meet the founder of the museum, Mr Aki Ra – an orphan of the Khmer Rough regime before he was even 5 years old, he became a child-soldier whose role was planting these terrible weapons that still today injure and kill dozens of civilians. In 1987 he defected from the Khmer Rouge and joined the Vietnamese army. Knowing so much about land mines and having trained with the United Nations at the end of the war, he became a deminer and spent over a decade clearing mines before opening the land mine museum. The museum was not only a place to tell the story of the Cambodia genocide, but also a home for many children, Ordinary People, who were orphaned by landmines or landmine victims. Mr Aki Ra estimates that he has probably cleared over 50,000 mines and unexploded ordinance (UXO) in his lifetime, yet there are still many more to be found.

Tuk tuks

We weren’t brave enough to visit the Killing Fields, but we felt the impact of the Cambodia genocide in conversations with tuk tuk drivers, market traders, barefoot children, street food vendors, and many other Ordinary People that we met during our travels.  It was a sobering reminder of just how privileged we are to live the lives that we live, in the peaceful countries that we live in.

If I could wish one thing for this incredible country, it is that more of us choose to experience its beauty and contribute towards its ongoing development. The loss of tourism since Covid lockdowns has hit them hard and they are desperate to share their country and their story with visitors – the story of Ordinary People like you or I whose lives have been devastated by the brutality of war.

Beautiful children, Cambodia



The future of curating at MIMA

The School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University, welcomed its first cohort of  Curator apprentices recently and is looking forward to growing numbers on the unique programme. Professor Sarah Perks and Dr Paul Stewart comment on the success and popularity of this groundbreaking new apprenticeship

Teesside University are the first university to launch the Curator apprenticeship, leading the way with a highly experienced professional team and building on the reknowned work of MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art), an international art gallery and museum that sits at the artistic heart of the School of Arts & Creative Industries on the Teesside University campus.

Apprentice Curators at MIMA

The Curator apprenticeship is embedded into the MIMA programme, allowing apprentices access to all resources and also for students following the non-apprenticeship route  to contribute to a range of events, projects and exhibitions as part of their learning. It benefits from a knowledgeable and vastly experienced team leading sessions, including our Professor of Curating, Sarah Perks, Dr Paul Stewart, Elinor Morgan (Artistic Director at MIMA), Helen Welford and Dr Pippa Oldfield – all based within the school. Tutors for the first module include Daniella Rose-King (Tate) and independent curator, George Vasey, with guest speakers including Emily Pringle (Tate) and Sophia Hao (Cooper Gallery, Dundee).

Apprentices in the MIMA Gallery

Professor Perks said

“Starting the first Level 7 Apprenticeship in Curating has been such a fabulous journey for myself and my colleagues in the school and MIMA, we have been so excited during the design and implementation of the course and to be able welcome the first cohort to Middlesbrough has made it very real.

We have an even larger cohort for the next intake and a whole new module focused on access, inclusion and working with collections (of all types), with a large group joining us from the National Trust, as far away as Penzance!

We’re getting more and more enquiries from outside of museums and galleries which is really exciting. It’s also helping our research into curatorial strategies too, where we are very focused on activity with local communities and nature recovery.”

Taking part in an intensive study week

The Curator apprenticeship benefits from an intesive block delivery model, with apprentices required to attend 3 one-week blocks of learning across each year of the 2-year course. On completion of the apprenticeship the award of MA Curating is received alongside the Curator Apprenticeship.

Dr Paul Stewart leading a taught session

Dr Stewart comments

“It was a fantastic experience to work with such a diverse and passionate group across multiple areas of curating, from galleries to archives across collections and public programming. The course has really developed a fantastic peer group and solidifed the need to further establish new ways of learning and teaching across the arts and curatorial sectors that support new and multiple entry points.

The apprenticeship builds on the work MIMA already does, connecting art, people and ideas to empower creative lives and positively contribute to the community.”

Apprentices in the MIMA Gallery

Further information about the Curator Apprenticeship

in the School of Arts & Creative Industries at

Teesside University can be found here

From MIMA to Milan for Modern Artisan, Emily

Since graduating from Teesside University with a degree in Fashion Design, life has been a whirlwind for designer Emily Dey. A graduate programme was followed by the opportunity to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime Modern Artisan training programme, giving her the confidence to launch her very own fashion brand. Emily tells her story here…

I began the Modern Artisan programme in London, September 2021. I’d applied for the programme a couple of months previously and waited till the final day before the applications closed as I couldn’t stop swapping and changing my CV and portfolio until the last minute. When I got an interview I couldn’t believe it and rehearsed for hours what I was going to say.

The whole application and interview process was rather intense and very competitive, so when I finally found out I’d secured a place on the programme I was beyond ecstatic.

Before the programme I had just taken part in one of the Teesside University Graduate programmes. I worked for 3 months between the University and MIMA helping curate a sustainable materials library alongside different innovative fashion items. This was all part of the award-winning Chemical City Exhibition shown at MIMA (winner of the Best Exhibition category in the NE Culture Awards). I think that having this experience with the university and being able to curate all the knowledge of sustainable and innovative fabrics really enhanced my chances when applying for Modern Artisan, as that is really what the programme is all about… a sustainable, ethical and innovative future for the fashion industry.

Emily Dey, Sewing machine, Fashion
Emily Dey designing her branded fashion collection

I had heard about the Teesside University Graduate programme from my previous tutor, Lynne Hugill as I’d studied Fashion Design at Teesside University, graduating with a First Class Honours in 2020. Before applying to do Fashion Design I had very little experience on a sewing machine and zero experience pattern cutting – I just liked clothes and designing. Everything I know about creating garments and sewing began at university and I fell in love with it straight away. I have Amanda Jobling and Vicky Wake to thank for teaching me everything about sewing and pattern cutting. They set me on the path to being a Modern Artisan, where I refined all I was taught at university.

In October 2021, The Prince’s Foundation and YOOX NET-A-PORTER unveiled the new artisans in training for the second edition of the responsible luxury training programme at the pre-COP 26 event hosted by the UK Government’s Department for International Trade in Milan. This year’s programme brought together eight artisans, four British fashion and textiles graduates, along with four Italian graduates from the leading Italian design school, Politecnico di Milano. Us artisans embarked on a collaborative ten-month paid training programme, with design training guided by experts from YOOX NET-A-PORTER and industry mentors, and training on small batch luxury production and heritage craftsmanship skills to help build capacity in the UK delivered by The Prince’s Foundation.

King Charles and Emily at Dumfries House

In January 2022, all eight artisans came together at The Prince’s Foundation’s Dumfries House headquarters in East Ayrshire, Scotland. We lived and worked here for six months of intensive training in luxury small batch production. Throughout our time at Dumfries House, we gained the skills to handcraft the entire collection to the highest of standards.

Emily meets the now King Charles

Over the course of the programme, we also had industry visits in the UK and Italy and received ongoing mentorship from YOOX NET-A-PORTER, The Prince’s Foundation and brand partners, initial brand mentors include Gabriela Hearst, Giuliva Heritage, Nanushka, VIN + OMI, Johnstons of Elgin, Tiziano Guardini, Flavia La Rocca and ZEROBARRACENTO.

On the 3rd of November 2022, YOOX NET-A-PORTER and The Prince’s Foundation announced the launch of our responsible ready-to-wear luxury womenswear capsule collection. Available exclusively on NET-A-PORTER and YOOX, 50% of the RRP is donated to The Prince’s Foundation, to support its innovative training programmes. For the first time, Highgrove Gardens, adjacent to Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort’s private residence, served as an inspiration for a fashion collection. The programme and capsule reflect the initiative’s commitment to advance sustainability in luxury fashion and preserve heritage textile skills. We also demonstrate the shared ambition of YOOX NET-A-PORTER and The Prince’s Foundation to preserve the planet for future generations. It is the first collection to align 100% with the Infinity Product Guide, its sustainability and circularity design guidelines, and its first ever carbon neutral collection.

Each piece is embedded with a Digital ID through YOOX NET-A-PORTER’s partnership with EON, leveraging innovative technology to create a more circular industry and responsible customer mindset by unlocking unique product insights as well as care and repair and resale services. The Digital ID also shares with customers how YOOX NET-A-PORTER worked with environmental consultancy Carbonsink to minimise, calculate, and compensate for the carbon footprint of each garment. Carbon credits support the Artisans’ chosen certified offsetting project: Kariba Forest Protection, which protects forests and wildlife and supports community-based training and upskilling on the Zimbabwean-Zambian border.

Now that the Modern Artisan programme has come to an end, I have been working hard on my own brand, Dey Studios. It has always been a dream of mine to own my own fashion brand and with everything I have learnt from Modern Artisan, I feel that now is the perfect time to take the leap.

Dey Studios fashion brand

Dey Studios an independent, British slow fashion brand designed and founded by myself, Emily Dey. Every garment is carefully hand-made using sustainably sourced or dead-stock fabrics. All items are made on a pre-order basis to prevent wastage. This means every item is made in a much more responsible way. In the past, clothing was made to last – nobody ever thought to wear something once then throw it away. We invested in clothing we loved and wore it over and over again and if it broke, we’d simply fix it. Dey Studios wants to bring this back to the norm. Every item is lovingly hand-made in the North East of England, and made to be worn again and again. Dey Studios is reminiscent of all things fashion, film and music of the past. Not only were things made to last but they were beautiful  too.

Each garment gives a nod to past decades where ‘fashion’ wasn’t important, as long as you had ‘style’.

When it came to owning my own brand, I needed all the support I could get so when I moved back home to Teesside, I applied to be part of the Launchpad FUEL Programme here at the university. The FUEL Programme is a 7 week Graduate Start-Up Programme where I was able to take part in numerous workshops and mentoring sessions all dedicated to helping founders learn about all stages of starting a business.

Check out Dey Studios’ Insta page @_deystudios

The FUEL Programme has taught me so many aspects of running a business that I otherwise wouldn’t have known where to start. At the end of the 7 weeks, each business founder had the opportunity to pitch to the trustees for grant funding. I was delighted to have been successful in the pitch and have secured grant money to help take Dey Studios to the next level. As well as funding I have also moved into studio space here at Teesside university, which is paramount when running a clothing brand so I am very grateful.

Follow Emily on Instagram at @_deystudios or email Emily on emily@deystudios.com

Find out more about studying BA Fashion at Teesside University

MIMA Creative Week

MIMA Creative Week is firmly set in the calendar for students in the School of Arts & Creative Industries – here’s what’s happening!

The week commencing Monday 24th October 2022 sees the start of our first of two MIMA Creative Weeks of this academic year, a week when we celebrate the diversity of creative subjects. MIMA Creative Week has been developed in response to student feedback, telling us that they wanted more time to develop their creative skills, the opportunity to explore the school’s wide range of facilities, take some time out to focus on their wellbeing and seek out new opportunities.

Victoria Graham, Waterhouse Building print studio

For this MIMA Creative Week we’ve put together an exciting timetable of activities, workshops, sessions and trips developed by academic and technical staff. Students and staff have access to a dedicated site which includes the timetable and a range of on demand content. Most workshops and sessions require booking, so students need to be quick off the mark to reserve their place! 

The schedule includes a range of school workshops, both online and in our studios around the campus, including:

      • Career boost sessions
      • Photography workshops
      • Adobe & Microsoft accreditation sessions
      • Visual Arts sessions
      • Art to Object workshops
      • Belonging banner design
      • Create tomorrow together session

Art & Design workshops throughout the week include:

      • Laser cutting
      • Book binding
      • Turning
      • Cyanotype/Blueprint photos
      • Create your own Album art

Media workshops throughout the week include:

      • Introduction to the TV Studio
      • Camera sessions
      • Lighting sessions
      • Audio creation sessions
      • Editing sessions
      • Sound stage introduction sessions

Students wanting to know details of where to book sessions, check for an email and blackboard announcement titled MIMA Creative Week advising of the schedule, or contact saci-school@tees.ac.uk for a schedule to be sent to you.

Take a look at our courses in the School of Arts & Creative Industries


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Future Communities at Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire, an English Heritage site and home of the ruins of one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries, was the venue for a recent Future Communities Journey for Teesside University students.

Students from the school of Arts & Creative Industries spent the day at Rievaulx Abby in North Yorkshire as part of a Global Future Contexts module, culminating in the installation of a temporary artwork on site. The installation comprised students developing constitutions which were displayed on forms designed to represent shelter and community. The forms echoed both simple ‘tents’ and the rooflines of the Abbey which were lost during the dissolution of the monasteries. 

Student installations

Students were encouraged to work in new surroundings and contexts whilst undertaking primary research and the history of the Abbey provided a lens with which to identify and explore contexts relating to community and social organisation.


A comprehensive briefing was provided for the day, explaining that the Journey was to explore contexts relating to time, community, politics, economics, resources and identity. The module theme of People & People was to be discussed through a temporary installation built by the students on site at Rievaulx Abbey. Students were able to consider the history of the site, drawing links with contemporary times in order to present a speculative vision for a future community.

The briefing went on to give context to the surroundings:

As artists and designers we often create forms of visual and material culture that relate to specific people, times and places. This Journey takes place amongst the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, a Cistercian monastery built next to the river Rye. Founded in 1131, the monastery grew into ‘one of the most powerful and spiritually renowned centres of monasticism in Britain.’ Changing political contexts led to the monastery being violently suppressed and dismantled by order of King Henry VIII in 1538. Now the ruins are a recognised national historic monument cared for by English Heritage.

Students were encouraged to consider historical and contemporary social and environmental contexts including:

      • Community structures
      • Rules and laws
      • Resources and economics
      • Foundation, formation and decline of communities
      • Centralised and decentralised organisation
      • Political repression and censorship
      • Trade, barter and exchange

Working in groups and using their findings from research at Rievaulx and their own prior knowledge, students created the constitution and material culture (artefacts) of a local future community. The constitution was presented in the form of a shelter that was erected alongside the constitutions of other communities. Each shelter displayed:
1. A written constitution outlining community resources, social organisation and ways of being.
2. Symbolism and ideologies expressed as selected artefact(s). (i.e. tools, garments or graphics)

Student groups developing constitutions

Groups were also asked to provide information on social organisation, rules and laws, resources, production and trade, transport and forms of energy use for their community. Once shelters were erected they were then asked to vote for the community they wanted to live in and the best thinking and presentation of idea

Each constitution was drawn onto fabric and suspended in a frame provided.

“Reborn” constitution

Angela Peirson, Education Visits Officer at Rievaulx Abbey said

Staff and visitors alike enjoyed the work created by the students. The linking of the rise and fall of the community of monks with students then setting up their own community constitutions and displaying them as tents gave an interesting visual display as well as plenty of food for thought for us all. 

The workshop was designed and delivered by Senior Lecturer, Charlie Tait, whose teaching practice often involves co-creation with students through learning partnerships. Charlie commented:

English Heritage representatives were really enthused by the unique approach to the site which started with an excellent contextual introduction to the Abbey tailored to the aims of the workshop by site guide Dr Greg Hoyland.

Students worked hard on the day and it was particularly inspiring to see them engaging as teams within the ruins as they set about the creation of their communities 

Putting the frames together
Constitution attached to a frame
One of the constitutions attached to the frame

The Global Future Contexts module is studied in the second year of a 3-year Arts degree and supports students in investigating a range of contemporary social, environmental, technological and ethical issues to inform all types of art and design practice. Students broaden their understanding of creativity as a practice-based form of contemporary social discourse and explore a variety of issues through the development, production and presentation of potential future scenarios.

The module is taught on the following degree programmes:

BA (Hons) Fine Art

BA (Hons) Fashion

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

BA (Hons) Illustration





Imbalance and Time for Change

Alison Reid is a Culture Policy and Development Officer at the MIMA Gallery, which lies at the heart of the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University. Here, she pens her thoughts on Black History Month – the theme for which this year is Time for Change

October is Black History Month in the UK (in the USA it’s February, just to clarify). MIMA is very involved in the University’s approach to Black History Month, working closely with colleagues in Student and Library Services and with our partners and contacts in communities around the region.

In the past two years, more than ever before, there has been a real demand from colleagues for reading and for knowledge about Black lives and histories. People have asked what they should read and where they should look. These questions now shape our approach to Black History Month – from reading lists and listening resources to new series of talks that will take place on the campus throughout this new academic year. It’s always been important to us that we don’t leave this work in October. October is a recurring beginning.

Every week I search for and select a recommendation on Black lives and histories for the School’s internal Friday wrap email. Every week, while I’m searching, the same story comes back to me. So I’m sharing it here.

Twelve years ago I began a course in Intercultural Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I was lucky enough to go there in person a few times, though the majority of the discussion took place online.

Vancouver (Alison’s own image)

One of my professors was African American, originally from the Washington DC area. He had moved to Vancouver to join his partner, who is white Canadian. When he was still new to Vancouver they went to their local supermarket to shop for food. On the way around the store his partner opened a bag of chips (crisps, to most of us) which hadn’t yet been paid for. She began to snack on them. He looked at her in surprise, and asked whether she felt ok doing that. She realised that she’d never questioned it – it was just something she always did. His response to her was:

“Please, don’t do that with me”.

Because, as an African American man he was already under surveillance, in the sense that in public settings he was always being watched.

It may be a small example, but it says so much to me about imbalance and about the things that some people are able to take for granted. Imbalances and inequalities are gigantic when we begin look at them, and that of course is what we will always need to do. I think this story stayed with me because it helped me to look and to notice better. It’s that word – imbalance – that guides me every time I’m wondering which article, podcast or book to recommend next. In thinking about Black History Month, it may be a place to begin.

To find out more about events and exhibitions at the MIMA Gallery visit https://mima.art/ 

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Art destruction

As one of the UK’s richest artists prepares to burn thousands of his paintings, Dr Jared Pappas-Kelley, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Teesside University and author of Solvent Form; Art and Destruction, shares his views on the destruction of art in the Guardian.

Dr Jared Pappas-Kelley

Dr Jared Pappas-Kelley is the course leader for MA Fine Art at Teesside University and supervises PhD students doing practice-based research in Fine Art as well as teaching on both the MA Fine Art and the BA Fine Art. He gained his PhD in Philosophy, Art and Critical Thought (PACT) at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and in his own practice as a visual artist he focuses on an instability in the art object and the intersection between practice and theory.

His book, Solvent Form, explores the destruction of art, both in terms of objects that have been destroyed – lost in fires, floods or vandalism – and the general concept of art operating through object and form.  He examines events such as the warehouse fire at Momart in 2004 and works indirectly destroyed by art thief Stephane Breitwieser, ultimately proposing the idea of solvent form (hinging on the dual meaning in the words solvent and solvency) whereby art, while attempting to make secure or fixed, likewise undoes and destroys through its inception.

Artist Damien Hirst recently revealed that he will be burning thousands of his paintings at his London gallery to show art as ‘currency’. His announcement has brought both condemnation and praise from the art community – Dr Pappas-Kelley would argue that all objects of art hold their own destruction latent within them. Commenting in the Guardian on the Momart warehouse fire which destroyed about £30m of British art, he suggests that such an event is good for revealing the way art metaphorically trips on the carpet. Of the fascination with fire and destruction in art events like this, Dr Pappas-Kelley observed, ‘In theory no one is neutral at these specific fires – you either set it, are attempting to put it out or are watching the spectacle of it.’

Image by bedneyimages on Freepik

Hirst, who dominated the art scene in the 1990s will burn his paintings over several weeks, culminating in a final blaze during the Frieze Art Fair in London. Whilst some suggest that this is nothing more than a great publicity stunt, Hirst hardly needs the money, purported to be the richest living artist in the UK. Others see it as something more, an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ act of destruction that creates opportunity for a creative phoenix to rise from the flames.

Dr Pappas-Kelley is currently working on further book projects – one a collection of manifestos commissioned by contemporary artists and thinkers, the other a collection of short reflection pieces on works by contemporary artists such as Janine Antoni, Uta Barth, Terrence Koh, and Kiki Smith. He brings his wealth of knowledge and research activity into the classroom, informing teaching and benefiting students of Fine Art at Teesside.

Find out more about Fine Art at Teesside University:

BA (Hons) Fine Art

MA Fine Art

I am NOT a failure

Words on clearing and a secret revealed by Angela Lawrence, our Associate Dean for Marketing and Recruitment

One of the first WhatsApp messages I received on A Level results day this year was from a friend to tell me that her colleague’s son had not met his grades and he was devastated. It’s so hard to hear these words – devastated, destroyed, heartbroken.  My “go-to” response is to quote from Winston Churchill, who said

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”

Whichever way you look at it, this years university applicants have had a rough ride. They never experienced GCSE exams, but then had to take A Level examinations.  They without doubt had a less than perfect learning experience during lockdown despite all the very best efforts of their teachers – it was just not the same as sitting in a classroom alongside friends each day. So to not get the results they hoped for probably feels like yet one more kick in the teeth following a uniquely unorthodox two or three years of study.

I’ll let you into a secret. I went through clearing, way back in the 80’s. It was actually my own fault – I didn’t work as hard as I should have done for my 4 A’ Levels and if I’m honest, I wasn’t completely surprised to find out that I hadn’t got the grades I needed to get in to my chosen uni. Nonetheless I felt that fear and devastation that so many applicants tell us they feel. Fortunately, my parents hit the clearing lines and it wasn’t too long before I had a couple of offers to choose from…roll forward several decades and I’m now close to completing a Doctorate. I am NOT a failure

Things have changed so much since then. Clearing is so much more accessible and such an easy process. Clearing is not seen as failure, but as opportunity. We’re told that there are far more applicants in clearing this year and I can speak from experience and say that our lines  were incredibly busy on A Level results day. We’re also speaking to lots of mature students, many of whom are realising that their dreams too can be fulfilled.

It’s hugely satisfying to know that we are turning devastation into delight and heartbreak to happiness through clearing.  So if you didn’t get the results that you hoped for, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, don’t see this as failure but as a new opportunity, and in Churchill’s words, have the courage to continue!

Teesside University’s clearing hotline

01642 738400

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Discover YOUR opportunity in clearing 


Panama calling for intrepid illustrator, Amy

A Senior Lecturer from the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University experienced the trip of a lifetime, visiting the Panama to capture the life stories of animals in her drawings and illustrations.

Illustrator Amy Dover

Amy Dover has written the following blog telling a brief story of her travels.

Panama has one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the world where species from both North and South America live, from strange bugs to colourful toucans, howling monkeys, sleepy sloths and prowling big cats. Naturalists, artists, and illustrators have travelled to be inspired by nature in Central America for 100s of years.

Toucan in tree

But, what was once drawings made of new discoveries, are now drawings of a world which is fading due mostly to the impact of the developed world. I was incredibly fortunate to be given the opportunity to experience an artist’s expedition to learn from the nature and communities there and create artwork telling the story of animals that live in this biome.

Monkey in tree

In a remote area of Panama between the sea and one of the world’s most dangerous jungles lives one of the last surviving indigenous communities of central America. With special permission from the tribal council, I went on an artist’s residency to live in this community and learn about their unique relationship with nature. The Kuna’s (of sometimes called Guna’s) live across their own district and islands known as the Guna Yala (Kuna land).

The Kuna community

The community that I went to live with are located close to the Columbian boarder next to a jungle known as the Darién. To reach it involves a very small plane into the jungle and a boat over some quite ferocious waves.

Kuna collecting bananas from the jungle

The residency involved many treks into the jungle exploring the flora and fauna, the sounds and smells. I lived within the community for three weeks learning about the mythology, lifestyle and artwork they embroider into the women’s clothing. Creating drawings and printmaking in this environment produced unusual results, with a conscious effort to conserve and not take anything from nature.

Magnificent birds of prey

Travelling on to The Smithsonian Tropical Research Island, I was trekking with an expert learning further about nature through their jungle in quite intense heat. We were followed around for hours by a troop of monkeys who never showed themselves, but you could smell their sweet fragrance in the trees above. The island also echoed with the sounds howler monkeys who’s chorus can be heard for up to three miles. The water around the island hosts a community of crocodiles who could be seen on the banks, as well as many tropical birds and raptors.

Amy trekking through the jungle

Panama city is unusual as it has both tropical and dry forests, the exploration of this showed how closely nature can live to humans. I next  ventured to the islands of Gamboa which is a tropical area close to Panama city, and met some quite gregarious monkeys as well as more crocodiles, birds of prey and a greater collection of mosquito bites. It also hosted the spectacular sloth rescue where these ancient creatures lived their slow lives eating flowers.

Sleepy sloths
Sketches and notes

This was a hugely inspiring trip and I will continue to make work from this adventure, which will be exhibited early next year, as well as the release of a book. The trip would not have been possible without the support of both Teesside University and Newcastle University as well as numerous private clients and Craghopper’s for the clothing.

Amy Dover is Course Leader of BA Illustration as well as Senior Lecturer on BA Graphic Design and MA Visual Communication. She is also a PhD candidate.

Illustration courses at Teesside University:

BA Illustration

MA Illustration

Fine Art students exhibit across Middlesbrough

This August sees a number of fine art students from the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University exhibiting their work for the general public to see

Friday 19th August sees the opening of an exhibition at Parkside West  featuring the work of MA Fine Art students. Titled ‘FEMELLE’, the exhibition is a showcase of the work of female artists including:

  • Amy Austin
  • Charley Duffy
  • Robyn Fyfe
  • Vanessa Langford
  • Donna Morris
  • Evelyn Rodgers

Amy, Charley and Donna all completed BA Hons Fine Art degrees in the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University before progressing on to study their masters in Fine Art.  Along with Robyn, a studio holder at Auxiliary, they have all been accepted onto teacher training courses in September, with a view to sharing their creative talents with the next generation of arts students.

Vanessa is an experienced Community Arts Practitioner of 20 years. She is looking forward to working towards showing her work in the local area on completion of her MA.

Evelyn also completed a BA (Hons) Fine Art at Teesside University and she has plans to develop her sculptural and textile practice, working towards exhibiting locally after her MA studies.

The exhibition opens to public viewing at Parkside West, Middlesbrough TS2 3LF at 10am on Friday 19th August, closing at 4pm. On the 20th August the exhibition is open between 10am and 2pm.

Another Fine Art student, Ellen Ranson, is currently exhibiting her most recent work, inspired by a fellowship in Venice, at Pineapple Black in Middlesbrough until 20th August. Ellen is an abstract expressionist painter who works on large canvases, using bright colours and layers to create a sense of depth on the canvas.

Ellen Ranson