Head of Learning at The Sainsbury Centre
A trained art historian, Dr Kate Dunton gravitated to the ‘third space’ between universities and the arts and cultural sector.
At King’s College London, Dr Dunton supported collaborations at the interface between arts and such disciplines as health, science, social science and the humanities. These collaborations fostered learning and teaching innovations with a focus on developing empathy, resilience and creativity.
At the Sainsbury Centre, Dr Dunton leads programmes for all ages from toddlers to care-home residents. She aims to engage diverse audiences with the exhibitions, collections, building and sculpture park in mutually enriching and empowering ways.
Along with her team, Dr Dunton develops collaborative creative projects with schools, artists, writers, students, researchers, community groups and third-sector partners. Her current academic focus is on the role of galleries in developing emancipatory pedagogies and co-developing capabilities with a range of community partners.
I’m happiest when I’m bringing together people from different disciplines, sectors, and walks of life. Success is when we make creative things happen that wouldn’t have happened if we’d worked alone.
‘My interest in the power of art goes back to my days as a doctoral and post-doctoral researcher looking at the devotional function of images in the Italian Renaissance. When I gravitated towards education development, I became increasingly convinced of the potential of art-based learning, particularly in non-arts subjects.
This led me to the Cultural Institute at King’s College London. Acting as broker, translator and project manager, I brought university educators across disciplines together with a range of artists and arts organisations. I observed for myself how engaging with art and creative practice afforded powerful new ways of thinking, knowing and behaving. I saw medics in Tate Modern developing ethical reasoning skills. Student nurses and midwives in the Courtauld Gallery developing resilience, empathy and self-care. And science students learning from contemporary makers how to take risks and learn through trial and error.
Since I joined the Sainsbury Centre in 2019, I’ve continued my interest in change, social activism and co-creation between the arts, academia, third-sector and community partners. This has felt particularly relevant and urgent during the pandemic. Our learning team is currently working on projects with various local partners and communities focusing on the theme of mutual support.’
In response to COVID-19, Dr Dunton and the Sainsbury Centre Learning team co-created a variety of new gallery resources with a wide range of partners. These included SEND schools, care homes, homeless and mental health charities, foodbanks, community centres and academic colleagues at UEA.
Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, this Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality study centre will explore works in the Sainsbury Centre collection. Dr Dunton plays a lead role in this collaborative project with academics, conservationists, students, artists, curators, writers, schools and community groups. The vision is to create a virtual hub to better understand the relationship between global art, nature, the environment and colonialism.
Dr Dunton helped to bring together contemporary artists and medical students at King’s College London for a creative learning project that formed part of their placements at a GP surgery. Students addressed issues from addiction to period poverty with creative outputs shared with colleagues and the wider community to enhance understanding.
Dr Dunton played a lead role in this collaborative project between the Crafts Council and King’s College London. Academics and students in science and health worked with four leading craft makers. By drawing parallels between their practices, together they explored diverse topics such as death, light and metaphors of resilience and repair.
Thinking Without Borders
‘I remain incredibly curious about the strange alchemy that takes place when people collaborate across disciplines and sectors. When I ask those involved why they do it, the most common answer is "constructive disruption".
When we open ourselves up to new ways of looking and thinking, challenging our usual practices and approaches in the process, innovation is likely to occur. A shared goal, obsession or frustration – whether that’s child poverty or a fascination with folds – is what drives the collaboration towards work that generates new knowledge and creates change.’
WatchChairing ‘Creative Collaboration: Bringing Science & Art together’, online panel for Norwich Science Festival At Home.
ListenDiscussing craft and science on Woman’s Hour BBC Sounds, a guest spot with artist Shelley James.
LearnDr Kate Dunton, Head of Learning at the Sainsbury Centre, writes about ecologies of creative practice and the dynamic creative relationships within and outside of the museum and gallery based on UEA's campus.
ReadA PubMed article co-authored with Flora Smyth Zahra about a clinical humanities programme for dental students.