There is still a lot of misunderstanding about what a Fine Art degree actually is. On paper, it’s the study and making of visual art, but I think it’s much more than that.
During the last three years I have learnt about politics, psychology, sociology, robots, how the human brain responds to colour, design, architecture, music, global warming, the benefits of failure from an academic perspective among other equally varied and interesting things. I have been able to have conversations with my lecturers and fellow students about things that I don’t think I could have within another discipline. It is an educationally enriching juxtaposition of specificity and ambiguity.
Art can be a space in which people can think, reflect, challenge their views and leave with a new perspective. I’m passionate about the idea that this type of exposure builds a more emotionally developed, compassionate and flexible society.
A lot of misinformation is perpetuated about arts subjects, and often that information is clouded by people’s judgement and reservations about the value of art. Sometimes those people have had a negative experience of the art world, or perceive it as elitist, which is not something I necessarily disagree with. For me, this is where it’s important to recognise the distinction between industry and culture.
Cardiff in particular has a vibrant and supportive creative community that’s culture is in support of free, accessible, socially challenging and inclusive arts practice. This is evidenced by the existence of programs like g39‘s Breakfast Club as well as large cultural events like Chapter Arts Centre‘s pay-what-you-can Experimentica festival and the free Artes Mundi 7 exhibition with its affordable conference (during which they still offered free tickets to over 30 students).
That is a culture, one that is invested in the welfare and professional development of young people. I would hazard a guess that this is because they recognise the value of young people to their organisations and the wider community in general. Young people, students especially who have moved away from home want to be a part of something. We will remember the kind gallery attendant who took the time explain the work in an exhibition to us, just like we will remember the artist at an opening who was patronising and made us feel excluded.
Having moved to Cardiff from London, I am still in awe of the generosity of the people around me. People have time for you if you work hard and engage with their work, it doesn’t matter how rich you are or who you know.
In many ways, that experience of creative solidarity that my course encouraged and nurtured has prepared me for a future in art more than anything else. Especially in regards to exhibition invigilation, people come in and don’t know what to expect, they don’t necessarily understand or they are confused. Sometimes they are even angry – we have had that a few times in my current job due to the nature of one of the video pieces. It’s about being sympathetic and understanding that their experience and perception is valid and important.
Some of the most interesting dialogues I’ve had so far have been with people who claim to know “nothing about art”. I have an arts degree and am frequently baffled when I walk into a gallery or exhibition, and I hope I always am – being surprised is good! It allows a person to take the time to be more open minded and attempt to let go of this compulsive need to dissect our experiences.
Read more blogs from Cardiff School of Art and Design, or check out the video highlights of the 2017 degree show below: