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Sussex recognised as Centre for Excellence in Outreach and Widening Access to Art History

Sussex has been named as one of two Centres of Excellence in Outreach and Widening Access to Art History; recognising efforts from both the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton.

The Association for Art History (AAH) made the announcement during an evening reception at their annual conference held in Brighton last month.

The status comes as recognition of the work being done in Sussex as an area, acknowledging the activity of both Universities. The other centre named by AAH was Leeds.

Dr Flora Dennis, Head of Art History at the University of Sussex, said: “It’s brilliant to have received this recognition for the work being done by both staff and students here.

“From our shortlisting for the Times Higher Education’s Widening Participation Award in 2013, to our central role in the national campaign to save the Art History A-Level, we’ve tried really hard to open up access to Art History and engage as much as possible with the community around us.”

The Centre of Excellence title also recognises an ongoing programme of events and workshops which sees staff work with schools across the area, reaching over 300 pupils a year.

Sussex Art History finalists are also trained to deliver sessions to Year 12 Fine Art A-Level students, teaching Art History once a term and accompanying pupils on visits to galleries.

Academics from the University of Sussex are currently working closely with colleagues at the University of Brighton to support the introduction of an Art History A-Level at BHASVIC, launching in 2020.

With both institutions providing support and enrichment activities, this would make BHASVIC the first state 6thform in Sussex to offer the A-Level.

Dr Ben Burbridge, Senior Lecturer in Art History, said: “Speaking as a former state school student who was lucky enough to take Art History at A-Level, I can vouch for the transformative effect of the subject and, particularly, the importance of creating opportunities to encounter it long before young people decide whether to go to university or what degree they want to study.

“Art History uses images and objects to explore issues of vital importance to today’s societies—class, gender, work, religion, technology, our relationship to the natural world, the legacies of empire—and provides much needed historical perspectives on those topics. It is also provides the foundations for a rich variety of careers, not least within the cultural sector.

“Efforts to widen access to Art History help us to ensure those opportunities are available to people from diverse backgrounds.

“It also helps us draw new, alternative and interesting perspectives into the subject, thinking afresh about what Art History can be and maintaining its relevance in the future.”