September 27, 2021

Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator programme to tackle social mobility in the visual arts

This 12-month programme will support a cohort of curators through dedicated mentoring, training and research; working with eight host organisations to introduce them to artistic networks across the UK. We will appoint hosts over Autumn 2021 and will work with them to select the Accelerator Fellows through a focused open call in Spring 2022.

Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator has received £100,000 funding through Arts Council England’s Transforming Leadership Programme, through which we are also delivering the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme and Alumni Fund 2020-22, alongside £50,000 from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and in-kind support from Art Fund.

There is a dearth of specific research into socio-economic backgrounds of curators, but what there is suggests the level of diversity of UK-based curators is very low: only 21% of museums and gallery staff are from low socio-economic backgrounds and there is a lack of ethnic diversity, disabled and women in senior leadership roles across the visual arts sector*.

A recognised barrier for curators is access to postgraduate education in curating, a gateway to paid employment, professional networks and often a CV prerequisite. Yet while they are more widely available, they are also more expensive than ever, and present an often insurmountable obstacle to those from low socio-economic backgrounds. For these reasons we are putting no educational requirement on eligibility and the programme will take a fully inclusive, intersectional approach throughout.

The programme also acknowledges the role of curators as ‘gate keepers’ to the diversity and breadth of art that is programmed and visible publicly across the UK. We often hear feedback from curators that the time and money needed to travel to see new work or do research is rarely enabled in employed or freelance curatorial roles, meaning that they undertake it in their own time and at their own financial cost. This creates an additional financial barrier to professional and creative progression for curators from low socio-economic backgrounds who may be less able to do this. By supporting and developing a diverse curatorial infrastructure, this programme aims to impact future programming across the sector and address the acute crisis in the visual arts around who gets to be a curator.

Through Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator we will target the small group of early-career curators from low socio-economic backgrounds who have overcome barriers already to be working in the arts. We anticipate that this might be those with an independent or institutional employed curatorial practice as their main role, or those who curate as part of a second or freelance role they have support by other employment. The Accelerator Fellows will be selected by a focused open call via Jerwood Arts and the host organisation networks using best practice and inclusive approaches building on our experience of running the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursary programme and funding for individuals.

By the end, we aim for this programme to equip the Accelerator Fellows with the networks, skills and knowledge to lead and impact future programming in the UK visual arts sector. We will encourage them to challenge accepted norms and barriers in curatorial practice, self-identifying as emerging visual arts leaders who support the development and championing of artistic infrastructures outside of London.


Lilli Geissendorfer and Harriet Cooper


Find out more

Read the press release here.

Read about Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator here.

Read Arts Professional article on the Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator announcement here.

Sign up to our newsletter for future updates here.

Find out more about the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme here.


*Source: Brook, O., O’Brien, D. and Taylor, M. (2018) Panic: Social class, taste and inequality in the creative industries.

Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator
Jerwood Curatorial Accelerator. Design: Pavitt & Pavitt 2021.