A Lifelong Passion for Art and Learning

Anne Hodson-Pressinger (BA History of Art, 2015) reflects on developing her passion for art, embracing education later in life and overcoming dyslexia.

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Anne’s understanding and appreciation of art has been ever-present throughout her life. In her career she has flourished in a variety of roles including as an art restorer and running a modern art gallery. But despite working in the arts for many years, Anne only began to explore her passion at an academic level when she embarked on a History of Art degree at Birkbeck.

At school, Anne had not been encouraged in her studies and felt ‘put down’ by her teachers, owing in part to her undiagnosed dyslexia. She received six O-levels and failed her English Language O-level 3 times before deciding not to pursue her education any further. After leaving school, Anne happened upon an art restoration course and dived into it, eager to develop her practical skills. She then went on to spend a year working in the famous Uffizi Gallery in Florence before becoming a director of the National Gallery, London, and then later establishing her own studio in Chelsea. But it was not until one of her friends mentioned achieving a Certificate of Higher Education as an adult learner that Anne considered the option of returning to her studies, and she was inspired to enrol at Birkbeck.

In the same way as history, art will always repeat itself — but it also has the power to evolve and elicit new reactions in each audience.”

Starting a course in art history after a career both restoring and displaying art felt like “doing things in reverse” but helped Anne bring “a lifetime’s work into context.” Through studying art history, Anne came to understand that “art history provides a backbone for understanding all art and the development of art. In the same way as history, art will always repeat itself — but it also has the power to evolve and elicit new reactions in each audience — from medieval Russian orthodox icons to the latest modern installations embracing technology in their displays.”

As well as developing her understanding of art history, the process of academic study at Birkbeck helped Anne overcome her dyslexia. Anne describes how the “rigour of putting out essays every week” helped improve her spelling and translate her public speaking skills into written work. Whereas her talents had previously been ‘obscured’ by dyslexia, Anne gained a new confidence in her abilities and expressing her views.

Studying at Birkbeck not only helped Anne overcome obstacles, but also provided the opportunity to connect with a community of likeminded peers from all backgrounds. Studying alongside a diverse group of students, some facing similar barriers to studying such as working full-time or speaking English as a second language, encouraged Anne to embrace the challenges and opportunities of her studies. She never missed a lecture and describes the experience as “one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

While taking a voluntary career break to provide care for her mother, Anne also began volunteering as a Governor for the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where she supported and championed patient care. The break also gave her new ambition to pursue other creative outlets. She hopes to utilise her newfound writing skills to work on a novel.  While Anne wishes that she had the vision and opportunity to complete her degree earlier in life, she believes that it’s simply never too late to learn or try something new— an attitude that reflects Birkbeck’s vision of making lifelong learning accessible for all and helping more people like Anne uncover their full potential.