We spoke to Peter Wolland, a senior lecturer and programme leader in
Fine Art at the University of Sunderland in order to find out what exactly the course has to offer its students…
What are the main benefits of studying a BA (Hons) Fine Art degree?
Fine Art allows students to specialise in any area of Fine Art practice – it is a very broad subject today – or remain open to working across specialist areas. It is a subject that demands critical thinking, resourcefulness, independent research and historical and contemporary contextualisation of an individual’s interests. It can be an excellent preparation for a wide range of occupations.
What skills does your course give students?
Fine Art practice at Sunderland offers the opportunity to develop a particular (or a range) of subject specialist skills and knowledge which includes drawing, painting, printing, sculpture, digital photography, film, performance, sound, and art history. Students learn to problem solve throughout the course. The degree helps develop strong analytical and professional practice presentational skills.
Students gain experience in individual researching as well as working on collaborative projects. They learn how information about their practice can be disseminated to various audiences through blogs, printed art books, networking and exhibitions. All these transferable skills are very attractive to a wide range of employers.
Why should students interested in Fine Art choose the University of Sunderland?
We have a long-established and very good reputation for Fine Art teaching. The Fine Art team is hugely experienced. The University’s £7m investment includes Fine Art’s new premises, which provides excellent modern studios with their own well-equipped workshops. Our teaching team includes sculptor Prof Eric Bainbridge and painter Lothar Goetz, and the team actively engages in research.
Students are provided with a range of professional practice experiences which includes exhibitions, blogs, opportunities for four students each year to exhibit in the selected New Talent student shows at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland, and voluntary placement experiences in galleries including the Workplace Gallery, Gateshead. Regular, organised gallery visits provide an integral part of the Fine Art teaching curriculum. Visits and talks last year included: Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Edinburgh, Liverpool Biennale, Frieze Art Fair and London Galleries.
What do you look for in an applicant?
Our applicants should be able to demonstrate they have some practical experience of the subject and show at interview they are engaged with and enthused by traditional and contemporary art practice. At interviews we spend time looking very carefully at applicants’ portfolios and UCAS statements. We like to see fuller portfolios including evidence of applicants’ own project work and note/sketch books. At Sunderland we don’t have a particular “house style” – we are interested in students’ ideas and are keen to help students turn their ideas into art.
What jobs do your graduates typically go into?
Careers include practising self-employed artists; gallery and museum curating; teaching from primary school to higher education level; community arts and council and gallery arts education officers. Our Fine Art students go on to work in a very broad spectrum of jobs including British Art Council Pavilion Steward at the Venice Biennale and an array of other entrepreneurial and employment roles within the creative industries.
Do you have any notable alumni?
Past Fine Art graduates include Turner Prize shortlisted artist Richard Billingham, BP Young Artist Portrait Award winner Mark Jameson and performance artist Sophie Beresford.
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