Sara Cooper - Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne

Sara Cooper (c) Avant Photographic

Sara Cooper (c) Avant Photographic - Credit: Archant

Sara Cooper is head of collections and exhibitions at Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne

Sara Cooper was a linguistics student at the University of East Anglia when she got the first inklings of where her future might lead. "I did some extra modules in art history and very quickly got hooked," she says.

"The art history modules were in a practical museum environment so it all felt very real. I very quickly realised this was an interesting career path and people actually did this amazing job."

After graduation she got a job at the university's Sainsbury Centre as an assistant curator, where she stayed for six years before reading about the ambitious project of building a new home for the Towner collection. "At that point they were taking on a whole new management team including curatorial and collection roles. Eastbourne wasn't somewhere I'd necessarily planned on moving to, but I visited and it was lovely.

"I was attracted to the idea of being part of something with such amazing history as the Towner, which dates back to 1923. And the collection is brilliant. So having that foundation but then being part of this new chapter in Towner's history was really appealing - it was a very exciting time."

That was 11 years ago and over the years Sara's role has changed, from curator to head of collections and exhibitions. "I work with our director Joe Hill on the breadth and balance of the programme, picking up new artists and that kind of thing," she says. "At the moment we are looking forward to Towner's centenary in 2023 so we are pretty much programmed up to that point. That is going to be a really big year for Towner - big programming, looking at the collection and the impact on Eastbourne."

This year's hot ticket is Alan Davie & David Hockney: Early Works which runs from February to May. It is the result of ongoing conversations over a number of years with the Hepworth Wakefield. "We talked to the team about the overlaps in our programme, what we do and the similarities between the two organisations. We'd swapped exhibition ideas but nothing had been 'the one'. They said they were doing this Alan Davie and David Hockney show and asked if we'd be interested. I thought it was such a great concept for a show and this really fitted with works in our collection. It's early abstract work which perhaps is less familiar to people.

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"What Towner likes to do is take these elements of people's career that might have been a bit overlooked, and bring them back to the fore again. For both of these artists, that's what this show does."

Alan Davie & David Hockney: Early Works runs from 15 February-31 May 2020. Standard ticket £10, under-18s free

What I'm reading…

I'm actually reading the manuscript for the book which will accompany our upcoming John Nash show. It's called The Landscape of Love and Solace and it will be published by Thames & Hudson alongside the exhibition early in the autumn. I'm also part of a lovely book group and at the moment we're reading Valley of the Dolls.

What I'm watching…

I have two small children so my cinema days are sort of behind me, but Towner has a cinema now and I pop down when I can. I last watched Protest, a BFI film about the history of the protest movement, which ties into our Caroline Lucas exhibition.

What I'm listening to…

I like listening to podcasts when I travel by train. There's a brilliant one by Jennifer Higgie called Bow Down. Each episode is a 20-minute interviews with female cultural figures talking about forgotten female artists.

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