From curator to exhibitor, Mollie Balshaw – one of our BA Visual Arts students – spoke to me about her practice and how it has been influenced by opportunities made available to her whilst studying at the University of Salford

Image: Student and artist Mollie Balshaw painting

You recently held your student exhibition “Reality: Tap to See More“. What did your role involve?

My role was to generally be a leader and oversee the rest of the group, making sure that every part of the process, such as organising the exhibition, was going as smoothly as possible. I also managed the curation of the show which meant creating floor plans of the gallery space, and taking a lot of consideration into the placement of the pieces being exhibited. The curation of the show dictates the way that it is read by the visitors, and we wanted people to be excited to walk around the gallery and pay attention to everybody’s pieces individually. Of course, every visitor has a unique perspective of the artworks as they are walking around, but curation allows the artists a level of control as to how the show as a whole is received.

Was the exhibition part of a module? How will it impact your degree?

Yes it was! Two modules named Professional Context 1 and 2 tie in with the exhibition. PC1 is the planning of the exhibition and PC2 is the realisation. We were required to choose one of three ‘live projects’, whichever was most relevant to the professional environment we want to enter after we leave university. Through the modules, the aim is to prepare students for life after art school, and give us key experiences to help us specifically with situations we may encounter in the professional art world. One of the live project choices was ‘gallery’, and this is the opportunity to organise an exhibition independently and make all the key choices as a group, which is what ‘Reality: Tap to See More’ was the result of.

Has studying at Salford provided you with a lot of opportunities as an artist?

Absolutely! The course endeavours to meet the needs of everyone and is always presenting opportunities to help us establish our careers. Each year, we are given the chance to visit somewhere in Europe with a significant artistic scene. We are also occasionally offered opportunities for paid commission work either within the University, or externally. The course is always putting on cross-level events that promote collaboration and effective team work amongst everybody on the course to enrich our research and studies.

Image: Mollie's artist studio at University
Mollie’s studio space in the University’s Arts and Media building  – New Adelphi

What extracurricular activities does Salford provide for any aspiring artists?

We’re made aware of opportunities available to us every week, and the course has a number of extracurricular activities that take place every year. One is the Hot Bed Press 20:20 print exchange; another is free life drawing classes with a prize of a travel bursary on the completion of the sessions at the end of the year. This year, we were set up with an opportunity to collaborate with fine art students in Liverpool to create a pop-up exhibition at ‘Make’, which is a creative-led organisation providing workshops, studio spaces and events for the creative community.

Are there any current exhibitions you would recommend?

There are two at Warrington Museum & Art GalleryZeitgeist; a fantastic collection of paintings by Peter Davis, and Haecceity; a ground-breaking assemblage of conductive ink screen prints that offer visitors the opportunity to lightly touch the prints to hear recorded sounds. It’s a must-see if you are interested in interactive art and the relationship between sound and touch. I hadn’t encountered anything like it before, and I even went to the Venice Biennale this year!


I found it interesting talking to another artist who is using her degree to get the best experiences at the University of Salford, and to see her at work! Student opportunities at Salford prepare individuals for their future careers within their chosen industry, and it looks like Mollie has it all planned out!


Photography: India Booth