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Christy Johnson

Vice Principal

Originally from Los Angeles, California (USA), Christy received her Bachelor of Arts, Magna Cum Laude from California State University Northridge, and holds two postgraduate degrees with distinction, Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As an artist, educator, and academic leader who has worked across North American and UK contexts, Christy has extensive knowledge and experience working within a range of higher education contexts, art in the public realm, community engagement, and establishing links with local, regional, national, and international partners for creative collaborations.   

Christy’s interdisciplinary practice involves time-based media and the photographic arts. Through these processes she examines site - where context, culture and history become platforms for understanding the construction of identity. The work includes artist’s books, public art commissions, installation, and museum intervention. Christy has primarily chosen to work beyond the context of the gallery, exploring new platforms, contexts and sites for her practice, as well as relationships to diverse audiences. 

Her pedagogical research has involved looking at artist-led education models globally. From 2015 to 2017 Christy developed The Landings, a residency programme model that sets out to explore the intersection of curation, education, and production - a response to the critical debate regarding the efficacy of existing higher education models and the need for new paradigms inside, adjacent to, or outside the academy.

She has received numerous research grant awards, most notably from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK for her project FEAST, which was launched in 2007 at the UCR California Museum of Photography (USA) and was featured in Vertigo Magazine, Eye Magazine, Source, Afterimage and Photography & Culture. Feast developed across platforms and resulted in three distinct but linked works, which extended and expanded her interests in the interface between the archive, the book, the screen, and the museum.

Christy has worked professionally in the UK for twenty-three years. Her professional teaching has covered a wide range of fine art practices, photographic and time-based disciplines, and extended beyond the USA and UK to teaching exchanges at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design (MOME), Budapest, Hungary; the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Austria; Universidad del Pais Vasco in Bilbao, Spain; and a visiting artist position at the University of Art & Design Helsinki, Finland. Christy has developed and led both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and second-supervised students up to MPhil level. 

Prior to her appointment as Vice Principal at Plymouth College of Art, Christy was Professor and Chair of the Art Department at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, one of three colleges in North America in which the visual and performing arts co-exist, intersect, and converge.  She led the development of an integrated and immersive educational experience across the visual arts. She joined Cornish College of the Arts following eighteen years at University for the Creative Arts at Maidstone and Canterbury. Occupying a range of academic and leadership roles during this time, Christy led the School of Fine Arts as Associate Dean for three years until 2012.

Currently, Christy is a Trustee for KARST, supporting their mission as the leading independent art space in Plymouth, and helping to extend their cultural reach and impact regionally, nationally and internationally.

She is a member of The Box – Stakeholders Forum which brings together leadership across sectors in Plymouth and the broader South West region.

As an International Affiliate of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design (AICAD) in North America, Christy represents PCA on the Chief Academic Officers group which meets annually.

Christy is a key member of the Strategic Group Plymouth (Karst, PCA, The Box, and The Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth) leading the City’s planning for the Hayward Gallery’s touring British Art Show 9 (opening in 2021). Plymouth will join Manchester, Wolverhampton and Aberdeen for the ninth iteration of this prestigious exhibition, which takes place only once every five years and showcases new and recent works by British-based contemporary artists (curated by Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar).

Role at Plymouth College of Art

As a committed educator, Christy continues to research and be interested in exploring expanded notions of curriculum, and how we create innovative frameworks for independent learning within communities of practice. Christy’s experience of being educated in the USA, spending the majority of her professional life in the UK has provided her with a cross-Atlantic perspective on teaching and learning, particularly how curriculum structures limit or expand possibilities for students and staff alike. 

Her knowledge and experience working with learning structures and methodologies in relationship to quality, management and enhancement contexts has been an integral part of her academic leadership. She has led curriculum reform both in the USA and UK, particularly addressing credit frameworks and their impact on experiential learning and student progression and achievement. Christy has extensive experience on UK validation committees, and has served as an external academic and examiner in the USA, UK and Greece.

In her current role as Vice Principal, Christy is contributing to the innovative educational work of the “Continuum” project, and the College’s strategic commitment to creative learning and social justice. She is leading a comprehensive restructure and redesign of the college-wide HE portfolio for undergraduate and postgraduate study, as well as opening up technical resources and delivery across levels, subjects and fields. Key principles guide the project which include: cross-college mobility (students and staff), inquiry-led practice, project-based learning; thematic and critical frameworks; open access labs, external engagement with community, inclusivity and diversity, and to embed global awareness and social responsibility in the student’s journey.