Hi! My name is Cas, my pronouns are they/them and I am a BA student at The Courtauld. As a trans person, I have had mixed experiences with feeling included by educational institutions. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at The Courtauld to find that my course leaders always respected my pronouns, that the campus and student halls had plenty of gender-neutral bathrooms, and that there was a thriving LGBTQIA+ Society ready to welcome me to a supportive community of queer and trans students.
In particular, it was this student society that has given me the most enrichment as a queer and trans person at The Courtauld. When I joined in 2019 I was really grateful to be able to meet personally with the society’s President to discuss what life is like for LGBTQIA+ Courtauldians. This chat helped me feel more comfortable as a Fresher, meanwhile attending the events he was producing with the society allowed me to feel more integrated and at home in The Courtauld. As a society primarily for The Courtauld’s LGBTQIA+ art historians, curators and conservators, I have found it occupies a really useful position as an agent for socialising as well as professional development through our shared interests in queerness and art. I particularly loved his informal wine-fuelled Queer Art Show & Tell events where everyone got a turn to chat about their favourite queer art with the group, thereby making social connections and practising presentation skills. They were very popular and so I’ve continued these once every term over the past two years, during my time as the society’s president.
As with running any society at The Courtauld—whether continuing a society like my one or starting a new one—I had plenty of opportunities to try new things using the Student Union’s budget. This has been the case before, during and after the pandemic, but I was particularly impressed by the SU’s support of exciting student activities while everything was moved online. We were able to put on a range of talks and workshops with LGBTQIA+ curators and artists Zooming in from as far as New York, which was wonderful, especially when we got to partner with other student societies like BAME Soc and staff networks like the Gender & Sexuality Research Group to co-host these guest speakers! We were also able to hold social events like quizzes co-hosted with Fem Soc, and we started a virtual exhibition of queer and trans art which has been co-curated by Courtauld students (this exhibition is ongoing and still open for submissions on our Instagram @lgbtqia_courtauld).
Excitingly, now we can host events in person again, this year the LGBTQIA+ society’s Committee (Alex Lenczycki, Afrah Allsopp, Alice Dodds, Anahita Devesi, Solomon Burge and I) curated our first in situ exhibition, Crafting Ourselves! Held for three days at the South-East London arts space Ugly Duck, this free-entry showcase of LGBTQIA+ crafts featured 15 incredible artists, ranging from UAL, RCA and Goldsmiths students to professional trans printmakers and drag kings! After a successful opening night, we hosted a craft workshop with the CSM graduate Rachael House, and throughout the show we facilitated visitors to co-create an ‘Our Queer Ecosystem’ mural using the collage materials we supplied. As well as just being a lot of fun, the Committee gained some really useful curatorial experience as we worked together on everything from budgeting to liaising with artists, to marketing, to art handling, to welcoming visitors. For me, this distils exactly what I love about the society, uniting both its functions of socialising (through the Prosecco-fuelled opening night and craft activities) and of developing my practice as an LGBTQIA+ art historian.