School of Arts and Cultures

Staff Profiles

David Butler

Senior Lecturer Coordinator LifeWorkArt



David Butler is a senior lecturer in Fine Art and is the Coordinator of LifeWorkArt (LWA), a professional development programme for fine art students he set up and developed. LWA also supports professional development for artists and other professionals in the cultural sector. He is also Director of Engagement and Innovation for the School of Arts and Cultures.

He has over thirty years experience and knowledge of working in the visual arts as artist, arts manager, commentator and teacher, working both independently and with others.



David Butler is the Coordinator of LifeWorkArt (LWA), a professional development programme for fine art students in the School of Arts and Cultures at the University of Newcastle. This programme was initiated in 2003 with support from  HEFCE FDTL4 Employability funding as a two year action research programme to develop a model integrating professional practice into studio teaching – with an emphasis on the freelance/portfolio models of entrepreneurship prevalent among professionals in the visual arts sector – and developed as a fully intergrated part of Fine Art teaching at Newcastle.

LWA is well connected with the cultural sector in the region working closely with a wide range of organisations giving advice, support and involving them in delivery of teaching and learning. LWA is an experiential programme that develops both art specific and generic professional skills and expertise, and builds a strong CV and professional networks that establish a good profile after graduation. It is based around students developing a wide range of projects outside the university throughout their four year undergraduate and two year MFA progamme. Strong and diverse connections across the cultural sector enable students to undertake eg: exhibitions (using a variety of spaces), placements, public art projects, curatorial projects, arts and health projects, a wide variety of educational projects in formal and informal contexts and to collaborate with professionals in other disciplines – for example Valence an art/science student residency programme with the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research (WCTMR) in the Medical Faculty.

LWA has developed PG level programmes around freelancing in the cultural sector for delivery to creative practitioners (as stand alone CPD modules) and as part of a range of PG programmes across the School of Arts & Cultures and the Business School at Newcastle University.

LWA engages with research into the arts economy and frameworks for professional development. For example, involvement in the ESRC funded project Identifying and Promoting Sustainable Business Models in the Creative Sector (see and current research into the relation between the art school and the arts sector. 


As Co-Director of Interrupt he was involved in long-term research into socially engaged art practice. In 2003, with Vivienne Reiss (Arts Council England) he organised a series of five symposia working with academic and arts partners across England. He co-edited a book (Art of Negotiation, pub Cornerhouse, 2005) as part of this research .

Before taking up his current post he worked freelance in project management; publication management; research; writing and curating. Previous to that he worked in visual arts publishing and information provision, firstly as editor of a-n Magazine and then as Commissioning Editor and Development Director for [a-n] THE ARTISTS INFORMATION COMPANY. Before that he was involved with community practice and was programme manager for performing arts at Sunderland Arts Centre.



Research Interests

Teaching and learning strategies in universities around professional practice and strategies for continuing professional development in the cultural sector; the roles and impact of universities within the cultural sector; the impact of artists and cultural production on planning and development policies.

I am currently working with colleagues in the Business School, Architecture, and Gallery Studies in partnership with The NewBridge Project researching the development of studios and artists initiatives. Newcastle is a city where artists have always taken good advantage of ‘meanwhile use’ of empty spaces. Most established visual arts organisations in the city have developed from that. The recession has provided opportunity for those initiatives to expand but this is a precarious development. The work we are undertaking is bringing together research strategies from different disciplines to examine what is happening and what the next steps might be to model a more sustainable future. For example, how can the current scale of cultural provision in the city centre impact on urban planning, what can we learn from approaches elsewhere, how do we develop models that can be used by others?



Undergraduate and Postgraduate Teaching

I coordinate LifeWorkArt (LWA) – a professional development programme for BA and MFA fine art students that is integrated into studio teaching throughout the programme.