School of Philosophy and Art History


Something Fierce exhibition in the Hex gallery

​Your Essex art experience​

Experiencing artworks first-hand is an important part of studying art history. We offer a wide range of opportunities for visiting galleries and museums throughout your studies.

Our outstanding facilities give you the opportunity for object-based learning, which is rare in other universities, and also enable you to gain curatorial experience.


Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA)

Working closely with our Centre for Curatorial Studies, students have access to the collection and its staff through teaching and research-based activities, and have the opportunity to work with ESCALA as a Frontrunner and to contribute to its online catalogue. They also have the chance to be involved in researching and proposing acquisitions for ESCALA through an innovative module taught by ESCALA staff.

The collection was founded in 1993 by Professor Dawn Ades CBE, and Professor Valerie Fraser, and is run by two of our alumni, Director Dr Joanne Harwood and Assistant Director Sebastián Bustamante-Brauning.


ESCALA organises research-focused exhibitions in its teaching and research space, in addition to a permanent display of artworks in the ESCALA Gallery in the Silberrad Student Centre, and a selection of outdoor sculptures in the grounds of Wivenhoe Park.


ESCALA organises and co-hosts talks and seminars with partners at the University, including the School of Philosophy and Art History, the Human Rights Centre and the Essex Transitional Justice Network. Recent events include Footprints of Memory. Linked to staff and student research, the collection also commissions artists’ performances, with previously invited artists including Felipe Ehrenberg, Regina José Galindo, and Cecilia Vicuña.

Art Exchange

Art Exchange is our University gallery and runs an ongoing programme of exhibitions of contemporary art, artist and curator talks, as well as hosting exhibitions organised by students from our Centre for Curatorial Studies.

Placing the artist at its core, Art Exchange is a space where art, artists and audiences can meet, offering ways for everyone to get involved and enjoy great art.


Firstsite is a large and iconic exhibition venue designed by internationally recognised architect Rafael Viñoly and based in the centre of  Colchester.

The gallery runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, as well as film screenings, talks and music events.

Firstsite has also hosted exhibitions organised by our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America.

London art world

Essex is just an hour by train from the centre of the London art world. Our students enjoy regular visits to major galleries including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the National Gallery and Royal Academy of Arts, as well as to the many independent and alternative spaces.

Most undergraduate modules include compulsory gallery visits every year as part of our teaching, with travel to London subsidised by our school.