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Talking about fine art enterprise and employability

Art Enterprise Summit at Central Saint Martins 2015


Enterprise and employability.’ ‘Professional development.’ These words are regularly used in art and design higher education yet students and staff find them quite uncomfortable. BA Fine Art (BAFA) tutors sat down at Central Saint Martins (CSM) to get to the heart of this terminology and asked:  What do these words actually mean in the context of fine art?

Are there any other words that BAFA tutors prefer to use? How can tutors share their tacit knowledge around enterprising and employability in everyday discussion and in their course handbooks?

THE FORMAT An informal round table lunch was held, without any agenda for curriculum issues. The aim was to have a relaxed conversation, to allow the tutors to mull over the words and to get behind the issues. Course tutors from different pathways attended, contextual studies leader, one workshop technician, Cath Caldwell Academic Coordinator and the Programme Leader, Alex Schady.

FINDINGS: Language of enterprise and employability from a Fine Art perspective

·       Highlighting notions of necessity for ‘survival instincts’ in artists and artists as ‘precarious workers’.

·       Due to the adoption of language that was previously associated with Art & Design, e.g. creativity, adaptability, risk taking, flexibility etc. by other disciplines and subject areas, it was considered that new wording or recycling of old language would need to be considered to ensure that there is terminology associated to Art & Design that highlights the distinctiveness of this particular subject area in producing graduates with niche skills and knowledge.

·       The nomadic nature of Art does not always fit comfortably within the structures of enterprise & employability.

Thoughts on the Curriculum
The Art Programme Team were in agreement that there is a lack of explicitness in the way enterprise & employability are described to Art students both in course documentation and during face-to-face contact.

·       Furthermore, it was considered that there may not be effective methods in place for staff to be made aware of enterprise & employability and relevant developments in the area.

·       The Programme Team explained that there are parts of the curriculum that have embedded elements of enterprise & employability. For example, in BA Fine Art, the ‘Situating Practice’ unit aims to provide students with practical advice on undertaking a career as an artist. This includes a lecture series which introduces students to being entrepreneurs, providing guidance on making grant applications and tax regulations.

·       A lecture series ‘wobbly careers’ could provide students with an appropriate and realistic insight into the career and life of an ‘ordinary’ artist.

Network of alumni 

The Art Programme is keen to develop a sophisticated alumni network, which could offer:

o   Students space to reflect on their development/practice having completed their studies;

o   Provide current students with advice on how graduates have used the skills and knowledge they gained from studying into their own practice/business;

o   Evening workshop sessions to provide a forum for past students to seek advice and ask questions having had time away from their studies

o   The Programme Team will be able to track alumni more effectively if there is a stronger alumni network developed

Communicating art enterprise and employability
The Programme Team considered the appropriateness of using explicit language on the course webpages to highlight the skills students will gain that will improve their opportunities for employment. Do they need to provide explicit information targeted at parents that clearly demonstrates what their children will gain from studying on an Art course?

·       The Programme Team emphasised the importance of avoiding ‘setting down learning’, as it is felt that students will not understand fully what is being described until they actually participate themselves.

·       Further work to be considered to benchmark the attributes students should have on completion of an Art course at CSM.

·       Questions to be taken forward for further consultation within Programme and/or across UAL:

o   How are concerns and issues around enterprise & employability presented to students? How realistic are we about these issues and concerns?

o   How is the language of enterprise & employability in the Art setting kept fresh? How are academic staff members in the Art Programme made aware of new developments/initiatives?

Is there a single Art approach to enterprise & employability? Are there differences between courses and pathways? In what ways are the different learning cultures for different disciplines taken into account?

Fine Art is a good partner for collaboration as Art is perceived as an outward facing subject, with a great variety of output seen across the four pathways at UG level and across the five different Art MA and MRes courses. However the historic notion of a graduate Fine Artist still pervades, who is perceived as less likely to find an established career path than perhaps other ‘professions’ in Art and Design such as Fashion or Architecture, which feed into established industries.

Further discussion in Art at CSM

In 2014, an event called Futures in Art was hosted by Bea Denton on the Foundation in Art and Design which reflected on the different career paths of alumni. Sister college at UAL, CCW decided to run a similar event to further explore and expand the discussion. See Process arts for write up by Academic Coordinator Patti Ellis. CAth and Patti are aiming to join up this activity in 2016.

What is next?

Currently UAL’s Cara Lee Roth is leading on a team project: a strategic educational proposal from the Higher Education Academy entitled Creative Attributes Framework for Enterprise and Employability, known as CAFE2.  

Following this The PG community joined with Cath and Alex to run the PG Breakfast event 28th May

Any comments please get in touch c.caldwell at csm dot

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