An interview with Danielle Ash, Tees Valley Leadership Ambassador
Danielle is a Middlesbrough-based curator and the first ambassador for Clore Leadership’s Tees Valley Leadership Programme. We speak to Danielle to find out more about her work and and involvement with the Tees Valley programme.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I came to the arts through a fairly traditional education route, studying BA(Hons) Fine Art at Lancaster University followed by a two year MFA in Curating degree at Goldsmiths, University of London. After completing my MFA, I moved back to Lancaster to become Assistant Curator for Lancaster Arts, before heading to the North East and work for Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), also in an Assistant Curator position.
When did you first hear about Clore Leadership?
I first heard about Clore Leadership back in 2022, when I applied for its Emerging Leaders course.
How did you get involved in Clore Leadership’s Tees Valley programme?
In January 2023, I attended the Tees Valley launch event at Darlington Hippodrome via word of mouth. The application process was straightforward and I was successful in applying for several of the leadership skills days. These were Coaching Skills with Isabel Mortimer, Governance with Keith Arrowsmith and The Art of Change with Claire Antrobus. It was brilliant to meet creatives living and working in the Tees Valley – not only artists – but curators, historians, and other arts workers in the area.
Why did you decide to take part?
I wanted to decided time to develop my leadership and coaching skills in a room of likeminded people who were in a similar point in their careers. The programme was flagged by my organisation and it felt like an opportunity not to be missed.
What was the experience like?
Overall, the sessions were informal but professional and I came away with insight and connections with people who I wouldn’t have otherwise had met. There were lots of moments for smaller break out groups, so I could get to know others on the course and have the time for intimate one to one conversations. I felt empowered to switch off my phone and fully immerse myself in the discussions and activity. It felt liberating to talk through challenging scenarios with peers.
Participants received an information pack prior to each session so I felt prepared and ready to learn. All the sessions were different in content and delivery – incorporating varied ways of learning – but they all felt like a safe space to share professional and personal experiences, which was a big selling point for me.
Has it changed the way you think of yourself as a leader or inspired you to act differently? If so, how?
It has helped me manage upwards and I feel more confident making decisions and am proactive about my future development and aspirations. I’ve been inspired to apply for more professional development opportunities off the back of this.
The skills days have also acted as a springboard for collaborations. I’m currently working with one of the participants on a potential seed project idea and it feels good to be working on something independent outside of my day job. I never underestimate the importance of forging local connections and benefit of that support, especially during times of external social and economic pressures.
Were there any lightbulb moments?
I didn’t come away from the sessions with a drive to change the world but there has been a percolation in my thinking since. I’ve realised that there are small actions we can take in both our work and personal lives to be more successful. I’d call it a candlelight moment!
Would you recommend the programme to others? How would you describe it in a nutshell?
Absolutely! It’s a great programme that really supports collaboration, which is so important for a thriving arts community. It’s a small commitment of time but the long-term rewards are worth it!
What’s next for you?
It’s my fourth year as an assistant curator, and the sessions have really encouraged me to explore future curatorial leadership opportunities. Without these sessions, I wouldn’t have developed the confidence to do this, and am excited to see where I am this time next year!
Danielle was interviewed by Lauren Gildersleve for Clore Leadership, January 2024. Danielle is Assistant Curator at MIMA, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. She has previously worked at Wellcome Collection, Bold Tendencies and Vitrine Gallery in London, as well as NPOs and CICs in the North West of England.