I completed my BA Honours Degree in Fine Art at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) in Canterbury in 2015. I studied part time for 6 years whilst bringing up my young children and working part time as a face and body artist.
I absolutely loved going back to college – though it hadn’t been a deliberate choice to do so. My husband spotted an advertisement by Turner Contemporary and Aim Higher, (now Kent and Medway Progression Federation) for adults to become Cultural Ambassadors for their planned art gallery, due to be opened in Margate in Kent. The ambassadors were to be offered a free 12 week course in fine art practice with an exhibition of their work within the gallery space. I applied, but didn’t really expect to be selected. However, I joined a cohort of local people and the experience changed my life. We were all encourage to take our art practice further, and we all did! We all joined UCA and undertook a part time, year long Access coures that eventually saw us qualify with a BTec in Art and Design. The next, logical step was to continue – I certainly didn’t want to see it end – and around half the cohort went on to study the Degree Course too. I believe more than one continued beyond and, whilst employed by Turner Contemporary in various roles, studied for the MA as well – it’s amazing what can be achieved by a small community arts programme!
If you’re contempating returning to college – for an arts or other course, I can’t recommend it enough. My course gave me an identity when I was otherwise “just a mum”. It gave me confidence to stand up as an “Artist” instead of as someone who “just makes things.” Studying as an adult wa a different experience; as a teenager/young adult, I took things for granted, skipped lectures, messed around, was too concerend with what other people thought and whether . As an adult I appreciated the trouble that the college went to to offer support. I spent time in the library, made use of the resources, spoke to the librarians, ordered books I specifically required for my dissertation, I learned from the technicians and made the most of my time. I marvelled in the art I saw around me – and in the way that the older cohort produced such a variety of work – the younger artists were often more aligned in their thinking but the older students were individual and independant thinkers – and it showed! The cohort was supportive and friendly and I have made some lifelong friends.
I also took the opportunity to go on all of the trips organised by the university during my time there. We visited London and Paris, Berlin, Vienna and New York. My eyes were opened to what Fine Art was all about. I must confess to having thought that art was something that you either found beautiful or did not – that art was something you enjoyed because it looked lovely above your sofa, but my visits to the various art galleries made me think about art, what art is, why we make it, what purpose it serves and why it is both under-valued and over-valued by society. It made me realise that art’s purpose (though I don’t intend this statement to be limiting) is to make us think. To challenge our preconceptions and to open our minds to the possibility of understanding greater things.
During the time when I was working on my final project, the over-size plaster sculpture you see above, we moved house – to a different county! The sculpture was far too big to transport; it was nearly as tall as me, and in any case, was made of a welded metal armature, with a chicken wire frame, draped in plaster soaked fabric and heavy plaster on top of all of that – it would have been impossible to tranport it! Instead I had to keep travelling three hours back to Canterbury to ensure it was ready for exhibition. It took several weeks to make and though it was nearly ready by the time we moved, it was such a challenge to continue to create it at such a distance!