Developing a portfolio career was never intentional, but something that most probably developed out of necessity; on a practical level it enabled me to earn money but it has also meant I’ve had variety and flexibility in employment where I’ve been able to combine my interests in art, research and teaching. Sure, there have been times of instability as short-term contracts come to an end and working across multiple contexts can be messy. However, over time my work experience has given me skills and confidence to embrace this and make having a portfolio career work for me.
I originally studied for an Undergraduate degree in Fine Art and after a year working and travelling, I then undertook an Masters degree in Fine Art. During this time, I undertook a variety of paid and unpaid work all relating to my discipline: as a Gallery Assistant in various art galleries, as a sessional lecturer in a Further Education (FE) college, running art workshops and maintaining my practice as an artist through exhibitions and residencies.
In 2008, I began a part-time practice-led PhD in Fine Art, which enabled me to further critically develop my art practice in dialogue with deeper theoretical thinking. I continued working in an art gallery and lecturing in FE by which time I was teaching on different courses with more responsibility. At the same time, I also undertook a part-time PGCE in Post-compulsory Education (massive time management learning curve!) funded by the college I was working at – I gained a lot of teaching knowledge and it also kept my future career options open. In 2010, I was awarded an Arts & Humanities Research Council funding award and began studying full-time for my PhD. Here I undertook a substantial amount of paid and unpaid teaching experience with BA and MA Art students, both at Birmingham City University (BCU) where I was studying as well as at other colleges and Universities. When I was writing up my PhD, I transferred back to being part-time and took on a variety of paid work including teaching and freelance arts writing. I also undertook two small funded collaborative research projects at BCU outside my research specialism but grounded in an interest in the doctoral experience – these projects were hugely significant for me as I widened my research interests and by extension my employability in a University. I continued to exhibit my art practice and also started to publish my research and present at conferences in a mixture of academic and arts contexts. Since completing my PhD, I’ve gained experience of working in three Universities in the UK and abroad where I’ve failed into an unexpected niche of teaching PhD students.
Building up a portfolio career over the past decade has enabled me to develop skills in a multitude of areas and sectors, make contacts around the world and to open up different and unexpected employment opportunities. I’ve learnt that a lot of the work I do comes from taking risks, remaining open to perceiving employability as being beyond financial gain and following my own path even if it means I don’t really feel like I fit in. In the past year, I’ve secured a 0.8fte contract at Birmingham City University where I primarily teach and develop provision for Arts, Design and Media PhD students, as well as undertake PhD supervision and my own research in Fine Art practice and doctoral education. I use the remaining 0.2fte of my time to continue on my own projects and maintain my artistic practice. I value being able to purposefully traverse these different fields and inhabit different identities; something I have come to learn is important to me in my work.
Jacqueline is a Lecturer in Research Practice at the Faculty of Arts Design and Media, Birmingham City University and also works freelance in writing, web, research, education and arts projects. For more information, see Jacqueline’s website here.