RHIANNON REBECCA SALISBURY
I have a distinct memory of the first time I walked into the Art Academy. I felt like a child who had just walked into Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory. It was a completely new world to me, but one I immediately wanted to be a part of. I saw fabulous, large sculptures being built from various models, life drawing, painting and much more. There was so much art being made everywhere, but real, tangible living art and artists of all ages and disciplines heavily involved in their work. I was enthralled straight away.
I had been to many art schools in London before but had never entered a space quite like this with such a practical, hands-on approach. I was mesmerised by the quality of the work and the intensity of its production. It was like a living dream to see huge sculptures and awe-inspiring paintings being created in such an immediate, physical way. Waiting to find out if I had been accepted was agony, I had never wanted to go somewhere so much before.
The Art Academy is situated in a very interesting place in time; a time fraught with discussions on art vs. craft and whether skill is necessary in contemporary art practice. At the Art Academy you are taught a foundation of artistic skills, you learn to draw, paint and sculpt from scratch and although many people today would argue this is unnecessary, for my development as an artist it was invaluable.
Painting is a visual language and you need to learn how to speak this language before you can use it effectively as an artist; you wouldn’t expect a child to write before teaching them the alphabet, and for me it was the same for painting. What is special and unique about the Art Academy is that alongside teaching traditional skills, you are also given the creative freedom to engage in a contemporary art practice. Skills are offered alongside independent projects, critical theory, and professional development.
The Professional Development modules are an essential part of the course, taught through lectures and visiting professionals. However, I learnt the most about what it means to be an artist from working alongside the tutors. The tutors who work at the Art Academy are all practising, professional artists and are keen not only to share their expertise but also teach the students what it means to be an artist in real terms.
The Fine Art Diploma was a very intensive course. We had group tutorials once a week, as well as regular individual tutorials whenever needed. I have never experienced or heard of this level of tutor contact in any other college. Our artist needs were nurtured by our tutors and there was an incredibly strong support network in place for all students. The Art Academy is incredibly flexible when it comes to meeting student needs and the course could be tailored to suit each individual. In my last year I decided to go part time due to external circumstances and a need for more time to work out my creative direction before leaving the course and they were more than happy to accommodate changes to my course to help me.
The Art Academy has a unique and personal feel; over the four years I studied there it became like home. I have made a group of friends and we still meet up regularly to discuss our work or visit exhibitions together. The Art Academy was a place where meaningful and lasting relationships like this could develop because of the deep sense of commitment of its founders and the caring creative environment they have created. I arrived at the Art Academy with a desire to immerse myself in art, I left four years later equipped with the knowledge, skills and more importantly, the confidence to pursue my career as an artist.