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Inside out: an inquiry into an engagement with The Artworks: an independent art school in Halifax “the journey of an artist/educator/researcher in the making…”

Smith, Jennifer Anne (2012) Inside out: an inquiry into an engagement with The Artworks: an independent art school in Halifax “the journey of an artist/educator/researcher in the making…”. Masters by Research thesis (MA), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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During the period of 2010 to 2012 I became a student at The Artworks: An independent art school in Halifax, UK. This thesis is a narrative I have created based upon that experience using autoethnography as method. The literature review was conducted part way through the research and shows how I found autoethnography when looking into reflexive research. This and the rest of the narrative shows my understanding of a methodology that is just over twenty years old. Left Coast Press will publish the handbook for autoethnography in 2013 and I eagerly await its inauguration into the canon of research literature. I initially approached The Artworks so that I could learn how to draw. As a qualified teacher of Art I was utterly ashamed of myself and convinced that the reason I was unsuccessful at getting any teaching posts was because I could not draw. Throughout the journey I discovered many underlying reasons for my felt inability to draw and found many answers to questions I had not even dared to ask. My initial aims were to map the impact and effect that this experience could have upon my artistic practice, my teaching abilities and my understandings of the philosophies of art and art education. What I discovered is that through the guidance of John (Ross) and Stan (Peter Stanyer) (The main tutors at and founders of The Artworks) I defined my own philosophy of art education, I fell in love with autoethnography as a method of qualitative research through my self and I concentrated not upon learning the basics of drawing but instead developing a series of poems, performances and pictograms. I re-authored my past, revised my practice and reinstated myself in my mind as an artist/educator/researcher. This narrative hopefully translates a part of that experience across to the reader, however I include a cautionary note from Dr Carolyn Ellis about capturing experiences: “I know experience cannot be fully captured; once it happens, it can only be interpreted from limited and partial perspectives” (2009, p15). The thesis title begins with the phrase ‘Inside Out’. I have used these words to represent my role as both researcher and researched. I recognised early on that there would probably always be a part of me not fully emerged in the ‘moment’, but continually looking within and without at the experience as it took place.

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