Elspeth Mitchell

Elspeth Mitchell

Choosing to study BA History of Art at the University of Leeds was one of the best decisions I ever made. Leeds is a vibrant and lively city, while the University is a well equipped and excitingplace to learn. I particularly enjoyed the range of modules available across history of art, museum studies and critical and cultural theory, and by the end of my BA I had honed my particular interests as somewhere quite specific between the three. These interests have oriented my career ever since.


My favourite aspect of the course was the dissertation, where I got to bring together the most interesting aspects of my modules into one focused piece of work which investigated the writing of renowned French theorist Luce Irigaray and the American painter Helen Frankenthaler. I also introduced Luce Irigaray at the launch of her new book at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. If you had told me as an undergraduate writing my dissertation in the Brotherton Library that several years later I would be doing this, I’m sure I would not have believed you. My studies at Leeds ignited a passion for Irigaray’s writing and visual culture that I have followed ever since.


Since my undergraduate studies I have worked between arts organisations and academia. After my BA I landed communications roles at the Fitzwilliam Museum and then Kettle’s Yard Gallery (both in Cambridge) after which I returned to Yorkshire to work at The Hepworth Wakefield. It was exciting working in a fast-paced environment with artists and curators, thinking about ways to engage audiences and interpret exhibitions and collections. From the incredible paintings of British artist Christopher Wood in the collection of Kettle’s Yard to the extraordinary survey of American artist Lynda Benglis’ sculptures and photographs at the Hepworth Wakefield, I was delighted to be involved in opening up such interesting exhibitions to visitors. My undergraduate studies gave me the conceptual tools to excel in this area while also remaining critically attuned to the kind of projects I wanted to be involved in as my career in the arts progressed.


I returned to the University in 2013 to continue my academic studies with an MA in Cultural Studies (now MA Critical and Cultural Theory). Today I am finishing a PhD exploring the figure of the girl in the moving image and feminist theory, while also being associate editor of the critical theory journal Parallax which is based in the School. I continue to work alongside various artists, curators and arts organisations in the North of England on a wide range of projects, from film screenings to publications to exhibitions. Most recently I was invited to become writer in residence at Leeds College of Art in 2017, responding to their exhibition programme. Last year I travelled to Bogotá, Colombia with a group of fellow curators from Leeds on an exchange with artists and organisations in the city. I also spent three months in Helsinki, Finland on a curatorial residency and research trip.


My life has been hugely shaped by my studies at the University of Leeds where I have found inspiration, opportunity and lifelong friends