Curating a Creative Career

We are delighted to be supporting Creative Industries Week in the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries at the University of Sunderland.

Visual artist and University of Sunderland graduate, Sue Loughlin, has been kind enough to share with us her recent work and the story of how she has been developing her own creative career.


Hi! I’m Sue, a visual artist originally from Sunderland. After many years as an art teacher, I returned to my own creative practice full time in 2017, when I undertook a Master’s Degree in Fine Art at the University of Sunderland. Since then, I have been working hard to establish my creative career.

My final MA show installation, Anthropocene, 2018


There are a huge number of challenges when first setting up as an artist but thanks to support from Sunderland Culture, I am continuing to pursue my ambitions. As well as accessing professional development via the Unlock programme and freelance employment through open calls, I have also benefitted from the Sunderland Culture Creative Development Fellowship scheme. This award in particular has helped me significantly.

The window-scape that I produced from the drawings of the children at Usworth Colliery Primary Academy, Washington, as part of a Sunderland Culture commission


In September 2020, thanks to the Fellowship, I was able to take up a place on The Collective Studio, a development programme for early career artists at The Newbridge Project in Gateshead. Through this opportunity I met lots of contemporary artists and have been able to explore art making in a range of new ways. The programme has given me the time to really examine my own practice, motivations and interests as an artist, and I have produced new paintings, drawings and sculptures as a result.

Non-Viable States, 2020, a version of this work will be going on show at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art after lockdown

One of my sculptures being held by curator, Suzie Curran, at the installation of the Insert Exhibition Title Here exhibition at the Ex-Libris Gallery at Newcastle University. Photograph courtesy of Suzie Curran


During the programme, I was also able to achieve one of my ambitions when I negotiated an opportunity at the Middlesbrough contemporary art gallery, Pineapple Black, for a large scale group exhibition. Over three months, with the support of The Newbridge Project and curator Jess Bennett, I was able to produce Scramble, an exhibition of 34 Collective Studio members from across the country. The show opened on 13th March, but sadly the pandemic shut the doors of the gallery before general viewing could take place. As difficult as the impromptu closing was, I still learned a number of very valuable lessons, not least how to adapt in the face of unforeseen circumstances, which will serve me well in developing the production and curatorial aspects of my practice in the future.

The opening of Scramble at Pineapple Black on March 13th 2020, and my painting,
Higgs Boson, 2020

One of the most important things to come from The Collective Studio has been the opportunity to develop new creative networks. As an artist at the start of their career these networks are vital. For me, these have led to new working partnerships, exhibition invitations and the chance to facilitate workshops, all of which will help keep my practice sustainable and moving forward. These networks will be even more important as we navigate, shift and grow through these difficult COVID times. Despite the current climate, I am very much looking forward to what the future holds for my creative journey.

My facilitation of workshops online during the pandemic has been really important in making my practice sustainable. Thank you to Sara Calgie at Start Studio for this opportunity and to Anna Dove for this photograph of me teaching online!


I am extremely thankful for all the support I have received, and in particular to Laura Brewis.

For further information about my practice please check out:


For more #CreativeCareer opportunities, available throughout the year, visit Sunderland Culture’s opportunities page. Also, keep an eye out for more blog posts from our first cohort of Creative Development Fellows in the coming weeks, and follow the #CreativeCitySunderland hashtag on social media as we shine a spotlight on local creative practitioners and organisations every Thursday.

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