Firstsite Director awarded Honorary Fellowship

  • Date

    Mon 3 Jul 23

Sally Shaw receives her honorary fellowship from Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Lorna Fox O'Mahony

The Director of the award-winning Firstsite gallery in Colchester has been awarded a Honorary Fellowship from the University of Essex.

Honorary Fellowships are awarded at the University's Annual Meeting to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the University or distinguished themselves in the fields of study the University has built a worldwide reputation within.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Lorna Fox O'Mahoney said: "There is no doubt Sally is an outstanding example of both these aspects.

"At the University we are very proud of the ‘Essex Spirit’ which reflects a commitment to making a difference. Sally's work is a phenomenal example of this spirit.

"We hope this award goes some way to showing our deep appreciation of her many contributions to the life of our University and Essex as a whole."

"This Honorary Fellowship recognises both her incredible contribution as a friend of the University and all her inspirational work to place art at the heart of the community - to use art and culture to take on critical challenges such as deprivation, food poverty and inequity."

As Firstsite director since 2016, Sally has worked to ensure that it isn’t seen as just a gallery or arts centre. She focuses on ground-up community collaboration so Firstsite is actively supporting the whole community and building collaborations fuelled by culture and creativity stretching across ages and society.

As Sally has previously stated: “Our mission at Firstsite is to empower people, no matter their background, to be creative together and lead happier and healthier lives – by providing them with new creative opportunities and promoting imaginative responses to contemporary issues.”

Professor Fox O'Mahony said: "Students here at Essex, all gain so much from Sally’s work at Firstsite - her promotion of the creative sector, the diverse exhibitions she has supported and the many opportunities for young people she has fostered. We know this isn’t limited to only those studying art history and curating at Essex at undergraduate and postgraduate level – Firstsite is a resource for everyone.

"It has been a pleasure to watch Sally transform Firstsite into a space that inspires and enriches the lives of so many including our students and staff."

There have been numerous collaborations between Firstsite and the University since Sally joined as Director. Just this year our academics have supported events around the Big Women exhibition and this month Firstsite worked with our Centre for Migration Studies and Human Rights Centre to host important events to mark World Refugee Week.

Professor O'Mahony said: "Sally’s values of inclusivity are very much aligned with ours as an institution and so we were delighted to see her recognised with an MBE for her work supporting young people during the lockdown period."

Sally has been invited to be a Fellow of our Human Rights Centre at the University and is part of the expert panel leading the Essex Renewal Project, a project sponsored by the University and Essex County Council to examine the impact of COVID and recommend ways of building a better future for the county.