School of Arts and Cultures

Staff Profiles

Dr Emma Coffield

Early Career Academic Fellow



I joined Media, Culture, Heritage (MCH) in 2016 as an Early Career Academic Fellow having previously worked in the department as a Teaching Fellow (2015), Research Assistant and Teaching Associate (2014) and Graduate Teaching Assistant (2012). I now lead the MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies (for more please see the 'teaching' tab above) with specialisms in exhibition histories, art curation, art education, and the social, cultural and organizational construction of artworks, art practice and art history.

My research is often collaborative and explores the intersections between museum studies, art history, cultural sociology, and geography - with a particular focus on the 'lived' experience of contemporary artistic practice and display. This includes an investigation of the multiple possible 'interfaces' of engagement, the construction of artistic identities, belonging, inequality and power in the arts, as well as work exploring space, place and materiality (for more please see the 'research' tab above).

Prior to joining MCH I worked in as an English Language teacher (in Newcastle and Madrid) and for a number of theatres, art museums, galleries and festivals in the UK, including the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (GI), the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Durham Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) and the Theatre Royal (Glasgow).

Roles and responsibilities

I co-convene the Cultural Significance of Place research group with my colleague Prof. Chris Whitehead ( If you would like to be added to the mailing list or have any suggestions for events / themes / speakers please get in touch with one of us.

I am also a member of the SACS Athena Swan committee at Newcastle University, and am on the steering group for the Migration Museum Network (


AHRC sponsored PhD in Museum Studies (thesis title - 'Artist-Run Initiatives: A Cultural Study of Artistic Production') - Newcastle University, 2015

MA in Art Museum and Gallery Education - Newcastle University, 2009

BA (Hons) in Fine Art (Painting and Printmaking) - Glasgow School of Art, 2006


Research Interests

I am primarily interested in the everyday experiences of contemporary art practitioners, or more specifically, how it is that artists come to self-identity, 'belong' to certain groups, worlds or scenes, and the impact of social relationships, cultural precedents and organisational affiliations with regards the construction of artistic practice. This means that I understand 'art' in the broadest sense - as something open to debate, rather than as something that can be universally defined or fixed.

Much of this work has to date focused on ARIs (or artist-run initiatives). Here, I have argued for a new critical approach that  takes seriously the emotional content of identity-work and belonging, and which remains alive to the significance and value of artistic practice as articulated by those involved, rather than collapsing multiple forms of practice into a a single category.

Although my work is rooted in museum studies, cultural and social theory and art history, I draw extensively upon material from a number of related fields including visual culture, cultural sociology, the sociology of art, the philosophy of art, cultural geography, identity theory and learning theory. I also have strong interests in place, space and the geographies of knowledge construction, as well as art education and learning theory.

I am currently involved in two projects that expand upon the above, and which consider a) the spatial politics of art, and b) the engagement of young people in, and - crucially -  out, of the gallery space.

Current Projects

1. Geographies of Art: The Spatial Politics of Artistic Practice (September 2016 - ongoing)

Developed as part of my three-year fellowship at Newcastle University, this project investigates the spatial logics at work within everyday contemporary artistic practice - from the politics of studio sharing and design, to the role of artists in the city, to the assumption of mobility inherent in notions of a 'global art world'. Adapting key tools and methods from geography the project explores the ways in which artistic practice is 'placed' and even 'lived' geographically, the intersectional inequalities made apparent through movement (or the lack thereof), and how and to whom (or what) contemporary artists claim relation. 

2. Artist Rooms Interfaces (June 2015 - ongoing)

With PI Prof. Chris Whitehead, this project explores young people's engagement with contemporary art as part of the Artist Rooms (AR) research consortium - a collaboration between National Galleries of Scotland and Tate and the consortium of the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.Two forthcoming publications developed from this work focus on the 'interfaces' of engagement, and materiality. 

Previous work

'Newcastle City Futures: People Place Change' (2015) I curated this high-profile multi-media exhibition and events series alongside colleagues Prof. Mark Tewdwr-Jones, Anne Fry, Dhruv Sookhoo and David Mitchell from the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape. The project won the RTPI's 'Chair's Award' in 2015 and informed the report - Newcastle City Futures 2065: Anchoring Universities in Cities through Urban Foresight. More information, including a short video can be found here:


Undergraduate Teaching

I periodically contribute to a wide range of undergraduate teaching in Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Art History and the PARTNERS Summer School. In the past I also contributed to the Exhibiting Cultures / Exhibiting Art module run by ICCHS.

Postgraduate Teaching

I am the module leader for the Art Museum and Gallery Studies MA. I also contribute to teaching more broadly as part of the Museum Studies MA degree programmes offered by Media, Culture, Heritage (MCH) and in particular to:

  • MCH8511 - Art Museum and Gallery Studies (module leader)
  • MCH8501 - Understanding Challenges
  • MCH8599 - Research Dissertation

In the past, I also co-led/contributed to the following:

  • ICS8005 - Art Curatorship 1: Working with histories, objects and agendas (module co-leader)
  • ICS8006 - Art Curatorship 2: Exhibitions and exhibiting (module co-leader)
  • Communication and Interpretation - ICCHS MA e-learning course
  • Art Museum and Gallery Education 1
  • Art Museums and Gallery Education 2

    Research Supervision

    I supervise a number of BA and MA dissertations for students in MCH and Art History