Among the three new sector professionals judging Museums + Heritage Awards submissions for the first time is Deborah Smith.
Smith joins the panel as director of the Arts Council Collection, and will judge submissions alongside fellow first-time judges Keith Merrin and Sally Shaw MBE.
Smith’s career began as a post-graduate in Textile Research, followed by a traineeship from the Arts Council at The Whitechapel Art Gallery, studying the combination of education and exhibitions.
She then partnered with Kate Fowle on women’s curatorial practice Smith and Fowle, commissioning artists and completing site-specific work.
A curator for a number of decades, Smith has explored different strategies for collaboration and the presentation of interdisciplinary practices.
Smith serves as a shadow board member of The Box in Plymouth, on the Art Collection Committee at the University of Warwick and on HS2’s Independent Design Panel.
She has delivered exhibitions alongside large-scale commissions, residencies, and publications, interwoven with programmes of learning, engagement and interpretation.
Projects have been developed in galleries and in the public realm with internationally respected organisations such as Hayward Touring, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Camden Arts Centre, Chapter, and the Contemporary Art Society.
Her work has included Curator, Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme at Birmingham Museums Trust and Head of Programmes (Interim) at the Serpentine Galleries.
It is the panel’s responsibility to "bring to life that the small is just as valid as the large,” she said.
Smith previously worked with Arup – a global company of engineers, architects and planners and with Invisible Dust, an organisation specialising in art and science, and recently curated the exhibition ‘Human conditions of clay’ in collaboration with Chapter, touring to John Hansard Gallery, Southampton.
As director of the Arts Council Collection, Smith said her current role “brings together all my passions and beliefs in a national collection that can go far and engage audiences in so many different contexts,” she tells Advisor.
Smith joins a judging panel with extensive experience both in and in support of the museums and heritage sector, and will add “experience in museums, galleries, site specific work and architecture to the panel.”
It is the panel’s responsibility to “bring to life that the small is just as valid as the large,” she said.
The Museums + Heritage Awards will be an opportunity for Smith to survey the sector too.
Joining the panel to judge the 2024 entrants will “broaden my mind to what is happening and how museums and galleries are surviving, and working with communities and artists,” and will be a “celebration of culture in a way that I am really interested in understanding and celebrating.”
She said she hopes joining the panel will allow for the “championing applicants, and supporting that process is so valid. It’s not all about the winner, it’s about the process.”
“I’m interested in applicants that have thought through what they want to share and what they feel is worth highlighting.”
Entries to the Museums + Heritage Awards are now open. An early-bird discount is available until the end of November.