Making ‘Culture Vultures’: an investigation into the socio-­‐cultural factors that determine what and how young people learn in the art gallery

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 [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis focuses on the Raw Canvas youth programme at Tate Modern (1999-2011). Data is drawn from peer-led workshops and interviews with gallery education professionals. The material has been sifted to extract understanding of the ways in which pedagogies imagine and construct learners in voluntary and unaccredited educational environments. The particular educational context of the art gallery, in comparison to learning in formal educational environments, is central to the research. The title refers to Peterson’s (1992) conception of the ‘cultural omnivore’ as an individual whose tastes span popular and high cultures. This term describes the work of youth programmes at Tate Modern whilst simultaneously revealing the underlying problem: that such cultural infidelity is primarily a middle class characteristic. Was the aim of this youth programme to make all young people middle-class? The thesis begins by exploring the historical context for gallery education before a detailed study of theoretical frameworks for the interpretation of art: hermeneutics. Specific interrogation of critical, constructivist and emancipatory pedagogies create a backdrop to the analysis. Audience development and inclusion initiatives are key themes that run throughout the study and are explored in relation to the political landscape, personal ideologies and the academic imperatives of learning in this context. The outcomes point to the fact that inclusion initiatives fail to be inclusive when they employ pedagogies that are not suited to individual learners and rely too heavily on the specific ideology of the learning institution itself. Ideologies define what we do and as such they must be made visible to young people and be open for discussion so that we avoid merely teaching acceptance of the dominant ideology of the time. I conclude that art educators must consider what we are doing for learning and the arts and whom we are doing it for?

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


youth, peer-led, art gallery, dialogue, culture, pedagogy, art, education, audience, ideology, philanthropy, hermeneutics, interpretation, modern and contemporary art

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


24 June 2014

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

05 Aug 2014 09:05

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 09:02


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