Esther is head of the MA Arts and Learning programme. She also teaches on the BA Education, Culture & Society and is a PhD supervisor for the Education and the Practice Based Art & Learning MPHIL/PhD programmes. Esther’s research interests are around arts participation and in particular pedagogies that enable the production of knowledge locally, where equality and emancipation are foregrounded. Currently this is pursued within the cultural context of the skatepark where immersive, reciprocal pedagogies are played out.
Esther’s professional experience began as an artist leading workshops in schools, youth clubs and galleries. She has been a gallery educator at Tate Liverpool, Tate Modern and Whitechapel Gallery; a lecturer at Loughborough and Staffordshire Universities and Special Projects Coordinator at Camden Arts Centre. She worked at Tate Modern (1999-2011) as an Artist Educator and as Curator for School and Youth Programmes. Since 2011, Esther has worked as arts in education consultant at Southbank Centre, Camden Arts Centre, Xue Xue Institute in Taiwan, Wellcome Collection, Newlyn Art Gallery and for the North West Cambridge Public Art Development Programme. She is currently a professional mentor within the Practice Research (Learning) programme at Tate.
Esther’s underpinning research is to do with Youth Programmes in art galleries and how the infrastructure of gallery youth programmes can help us to understand more about building inclusive and equal societies. She is interested in the similarities between the governance of galleries in the public sector and the structures that exist in government in a democratic society. For example: in its drive to include the public in shaping its programmes, the gallery shares the democratic will of government. That is, ‘the insertion of those outside the democracy into democracy’ (Bingham and Biesta, 2010).
This research is a critique of inclusion agendas and the way they can dictate the activity of cultural organisations where there is sometimes an over-emphasis on numbers, who is included and who is not. See, Sayers, E. (2016). From Art Appreciation to Pedagogies of Dissent: Gallery Education Rethinks the Inclusion Agenda. In Hickey-Moody, A. & Page, T. [Eds.]. Arts, Pedagogy and Cultural Resistance: New Materialisms. International: Rowman and Littlefield. November 2015.
An ongoing engagement with practice based research means that Esther approaches the problem of how to engage new publics; not as the insertion of those outside of the existing order into it, but as more of a disruptive process where those will no voice acquire one.
See, Sayers, E. (2014). An ‘Equality of Intelligences’: Exploring the Barriers to Engagement with Modern and Contemporary Art in Peer-to-Peer Workshops at Tate Modern iJADE, Volume 33, Issue 3, 358-361. ISSN1476-8062.
The key principles of Esther’s research are that working collaboratively produces negotiated understandings of knowledge. That genuine co-working is difficult and we have to accept that we are not bringing people round to our way of thinking but allowing our own ideas to be challenged and questioned. Being open to another point of view, not so that we change our own necessarily but so that dialogue can lead us to understanding. Embrace debate, seek out antagonistic questions and be prepared for the disruptive nature of an authentic search for equality. We need to consider modes of relating to one another and the ethics of that interaction and work around the instrumentalist drive through which we aim towards inclusion and instead start with equality (Ranciere, 1991).
Recent research has focused on ArtScapers, see the project's educational resource. ArtScapers is a project located around the North West Cambridge Development. Commissioned by Contemporary Art Society and Insite Arts in 2013 to write a strategy for education at the development, Esther has been developing ArtScapers, a nine-year project, with Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination, a social enterprise collaborating with artists in creativity research, practice and community development. The focus is on exploring change and ways that creative practices can help children to engage with the urban renewal happening in their area. Schools adjacent to the development, are working alongside as co-researchers to creatively speculate about what makes a community. This ties in with themes of democracy and cultural inclusion from Esther’s previous research and specifically the means by which communities of learners are built.
More information about CCI and the ArtScapers programme.
ArtScapers web resource is a toolkit for educators interested in investigating change in their local area through co-researching alongside children. The ArtScapers programme has been devised and delivered by Esther Sayers and Cambridge, Curiosity and Imagination, a social enterprise collaborating with artists in creativity research, practice and community development. The web resource was produced in partnership with LMNOP Studios.
Building on my research into processes of learning in art galleries I am interested in what motivates people to engage, explore and in turn to learn. The exhilaration of engaging with an artwork requires a kind of concentration, focus and reward that is seen in sports activities. Such immersion, I argue, mimics the process of engaging with the arts. To pursue an action sport a person has to find a balance between risk, skill and the sub conscious. Pushing limits is an important part of creativity and learning to take risks builds resilience. I am currently exploring the various pedagogies that operate within the skatepark with a particular focus on older women as a means to explore the navigation of risky behaviours, age and motherhood.
Sayers, Esther. 2015. From Art Appreciation to Pedagogies of Dissent: Gallery Education Rethinks the Inclusion Agenda. In: Anna Hickey Moody and Tara Page, eds. Arts, Pedagogy and Cultural Resistance: New Materialisms. London: Rowman and Littlefield.
Sayers, Esther and Griffin, Sam. 2020. City Mill Skate: Skateboarding Architecture and Community. Urban Pamphleteer(8), pp. 6-8. ISSN 2052-8647
Hay, Penny; Sapsed, Ruth; Sayers, Esther; Benn, Melissa and Rigby, Sue. 2020. Creative Activism – learning everywhere with children and young people. FORUM: for promoting 3-19 comprehensive education, 62(1), pp. 91-106. ISSN 0963-8253
Sayers, Esther. 2018. Enabling the 'Other' community through creative pedagogies for urban renewal. Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education, 35,
Hickey-Moody, Anna Catherine; Palmer, Helen and Sayers, Esther. 2016. Diffractive Pedagogies- dancing across new materialist imaginaries. Gender and Education, 28(2), pp. 213-229. ISSN 0954-0253
Hickey-Moody, Anna Catherine; Palmer, Helen and Sayers, Esther. 2016. Diffractive pedagogies: dancing across new materialist imaginaries. Gender and Education, 28(2), pp. 213-229. ISSN 0954-0253
Sayers, Esther. 2014. 'Equality of Intelligences': Exploring the Barriers to Engagement in Modern and Contemporary Art through a Peer-to-Peer Workshop at Tate Modern. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 33(3), pp. 355-364. ISSN 1476-8062
Sayers, Esther. 2012. Public participation as a tool for museums to take a meaningful place in the city. Display for a Display, pp. 10-11.
Sayers, Esther. 2011. Investigating the Impact of Contrasting Paradigms of Knowledge on the Emancipatory Aims of Gallery Programmes for Young People. International Journal Of Art & Design Education, 30(3), pp. 409-422. ISSN 1476-8062
Sayers, Esther and Griffin, Sam. 2019. City Mill Skate (@citymillskate) Instagram photos and videos.
Sayers, Esther. 2014. Making ‘Culture Vultures’: an investigation into the socio-‐cultural factors that determine what and how young people learn in the art gallery. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London