1 BLOG, 2 ARTISTS AND A WORLD OF IDEAS
As I mentioned in my last post, I have been thinking a lot about whether or not to do an MA. Educational Institutes are obviously going to present themselves in the best light possible, arguing for the importance of their MA programmes A lot of what they offer are the exact reasons I have been considering an MA: intellectual stimulation; critical support; community. I wish that this made the decision easier but there are a lot of other factors contributing to the debate for me personally, such as family and finances.
So, to continue my investigations I spoke to a fellow WEYA artist, Katie Aggett. Back in September at WEYA, Katie was just completing her MA Fine Art at The Slade (2010-2012). Since then I’m not sure that she has even had a chance to take a breath between winning the Student Prize of the Jerwood Drawing Prize and a new show at the Foundry Gallery, Chelsea. There is no denying that an MA was a positive choice for Katie and I wish her all the best!
Why did you want to do a Masters? What were your goals?
I chose to apply to study a Masters Degree in Fine Art when I was in the 3rd year of my BA. It was an instinctive choice as I felt strongly that I needed more time in art education. I still wanted to learn more and have the time to develop my own work and ideas. 4 years hadn’t been enough!
My goals for the MA were not based in future financial career aspiration but more to help fulfill my personal academic passion and for the challenge of further education. I specially chose to study the MA over MFA course at the Slade as although it was a longer course, it offered more critical discussion on different areas of Fine Art texts including some Philosophy of Art.
For my BA I studied outside London but I missed the contact with a large variety of galleries. London has a constant supply of Private Views and new exhibitions from large established and small independent galleries. I applied to two MA courses both of which were central London institutions. Once accepted my confidence to accept my place on the MA was through the knowledge that I would be around some very interesting tutors but also a wide range of dedicated students due to the competitive nature of applications there.
Do you feel you have met all of the above?
I learnt a lot from the critical discussions, thesis and essays written during the course. There were wonderful crits, weekly visiting artists, tutorials and group trips. My academic expectations were exceeded. The only issues I had were based on the difficulties financially of commuting everyday and tuition fees.
Would you rate the programme you attended as being worth the financial cost?
As I had been at University continually already for four years previously, the financial cost of an MA was straining as there was no conventional government student loan available. It is also hard to make the most of the facilities, talks and workload if working too many hours in a part time job. I imagine for people today considering the same course, since the fees have universally risen dramatically again, it will be a much more difficult choice.
Were your expectations ever exceeded?
The fact that the Slade is part to University College London is wonderful due to the links to other departments and for the access to libraries, UCL museums and facilities that an Art only based school will not have. In particular access to the Bartlett library and facilities was very useful to my research. The ability to collaborate with students from other departments like engineering or biology-based sciences easily opens up new doors of research possibilities.
In my final year I worked on a large-scale commission with the UCL Engineering department to design and produce a 12 floor high mural up the length of the Roberts Buildings, an engineering building at UCL. I also know people who worked with mechanical engineering for performance-based work, put on shows alongside architecture and people who had access to cadavers to draw from if necessary.
Now that you have finished would you say there is a value in having the qualification of an MA and whether the school you attended also contributes to this?
A lot of people seem to respect the art school I attended because of its good reputation. There is a high quality of current tutors and quantity of artistic alumni. The competitive nature of receiving a place at the school also seems to build peoples trust in your future potential.
The most important thing I have taken from the course though is the conversations with the other artists I met there. Last night I had an artist talk and group critique at my current solo show at the Foundry Gallery, Chelsea. Without the time at university together it would be a lot more difficult to stage regular discussions about each other’s work. Now I have left, the value of still being involved and invited to shows and talks of people from University keeps that challenge through critical artistic dialogue active.
Interview by Alana Tyson.