Learning / Our approaches

Our approaches

Learning at the Sainsbury Centre is about building relationships between art, people and ideas. There are three main strands of activity: a programme for adults and young people, a programme for children and families and a programme for schools and groups. Each programme is committed to widening access and deepening understanding of the Sainsbury Centre, its collections and exhibitions. We work with artists to deliver activities that stimulate curiosity, creativity and critical thinking. 


Learning at the Sainsbury Centre is informed by four specific and unique contexts:

  • Robert and Lisa Sainsbury’s founding vision
  • Being situated on a campus, at UEA, a university museum
  • Being situated within a particular locality and wider region 
  • Being informed by the histories and critical field of gallery education 

Characteristics of Learning at the Sainsbury Centre

  • The Sainsbury Centre: our learning programmes are always inspired by the collections, exhibitions, building and surrounding landscapes, even when they take place in different settings.
  • Exploration, experimentation and dialogue: our learning programmes are open-ended and informed by constructivist and co-constructivist pedagogies rather than by a didactic approach.
  • Working with art and artists: our learning programme is informed by collaborating with artists. This enables not only the development of skills of material and critical enquiry by participants, but also by the artists.
  • Ethics, participation and collaboration: our learning programme facilitates participatory or collaborative approaches with all of the people we work with. We are politically and socially driven.
  • Research-led practice: we believe that practice and research are intertwined and we support critical research and practice-based enquiry, no matter whether we are working with children and their families, or with academic professors.


We organise a seasonal programme alongside the collections and exhibitions, involving thoughtful engagement between people and things: talks, discussions, artist-led tours and workshops in the gallery and studio, performances and readings, training and professional development, film programmes, young people’s events. We also host academic conferences and subject-focussed study days. 


We are one of the pioneering galleries to have developed creative education work with artists, which we have been doing since the mid 1980s. This developed considerably when we opened a studio at the heart of the building, and we now have an expanded group of trained freelance artists. Now any group can book an artist-led practical session during their visit.

Offsite programmes and learning research

The core work centres in the galleries, however we have engaged in large offsite programmes with schools and communities, over many years (see project pages). As part of our on-going commitment to learning research, and depending on availability of staff and funding, we can offer smaller one or two day outreach programmes to explore particular research questions or to investigate aspects of creative object-based learning. We prefer to collaborate closely with teachers or group leaders in the course of planning and delivery so that there is a shared investment in these rewarding and intensive projects.