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Meet the Team: Sarah Jaffray, Art History Coordinator

27 September 2021
Posted in: Stories

— Main points

  • In this edition of meet the team, we catch up with Sarah Jaffray, our Art History Coordinator. 
  • Sarah answers a few questions about herself and discusses her passion for Art History, French, and even Philosophy. 

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Self portrait image of Sarah JaffraySelf portrait image of Sarah Jaffray
Meet Sarah Jaffray, our Art History Coordinator here at City Lit

Q: Tell us about yourself - what were you doing before you joined City lit as the Art History Coordinator?

A: I’m from Southern California, and I worked as an Art History university lecturer in the Los Angeles area since 2003. In 2012, I took a sabbatical to gain a second MA in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College in London - met my partner and decided to stay! Since relocating to the UK I’ve worked in museums such as The Wiener Library, Wellcome Collection, and the British Museum – where I was based in the Prints and Drawings department for six years. Working with physical ‘objects’ in museums changed my perspective on Art History: I’m fascinated by the tangible qualities and processes that go into making works of art – how they come to be made, and the labour that goes into creating something. In our current online environment, the rich digital resources of museums offer us another layer for thinking about these ideas.

Q: What is the best thing about teaching Art History?

A: Building people’s confidence! People know more than they think they know, and it’s my joy to reveal to them that they already know so much. I love demystifying Art History and helping students discover how relatable it can be.

There are so many different kinds of art – if you understand a theatrical production or love a piece of music, you are well prepared to understand a painting, sculpture or photograph. With art, we open ourselves the opportunity of exploring the world through someone else’s eyes.

Q: What excites you about the Art History programme at City Lit?

A: It has a lot to do with the tutors – the high quality of education here. Such depth and breadth at your fingertips - the richness of our tutors’ experience and what that knowledge brings to our classes. Even more importantly, excellent teaching: rather than a passive ‘lecture’ experience, most of our courses offer interactive dialogue, individualised attention and engagement. All of this helps to break down barriers and avoid any associations Art History may sometimes have with elitism.

Q: If you were to learn something new at City Lit, what would you choose?

A: I would absolutely take every French class available - I have spent my entire life since I was 12 trying (not completely successfully) to be fluent in French! Also, French cinema which is wonderful. I’d love to tap into dance and yoga offers, another passion of mine. Also drawing, science, maths (yes, really!) … I could go on and on because I just love learning. But if I had to choose just one thing to study (outside of art), it would be philosophy. If I could do as many philosophy courses as possible, I would be a happy person!

Q: If you could invite any artist to dinner, who would choose and why?

A: Not a painter, but Charles Baudelaire, who was an art critic, poet and translator in the nineteenth century. He knew many artists at the time and formed our conception of what the ‘modern artist’ is… he loved Paris and art, so I know it would be a good conversation!


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