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By Framd | 20 November 2019

The future for art students: a new perspective

We’ve enjoyed chatting to our student members over the last few months; finding out more about the art student journey and the bona fide issues facing graduates and undergraduates in 2019.

But what does the landscape look like from the educator’s side? As Head of History of Art and Director of Culture and Internationalism at Cheltenham College, Director of an art education company and a regular lecturer for the Arts Society, Nick Nelson gives his view on the outlook for rising student artists.

Nick, could you tell us a little bit about your own experience with art?

My mother is a very competent painter and from A Level onwards, I have always enjoyed working in a range of media myself. I then decided to undertake a PGCE in Art and Design for Secondary Schools. My passion extends massively to History of Art, which complements well the teaching of the practical component.

You run a company, Arcadia. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Arcadia Education is a company I established with my wife in 2014. Ultimately it is about sharing Art Historical content to students and enthusiasts. I have written copious resources for both, drawing on some 20+ years as an educator. The site promotes courses and study days, in addition to blogs, updates and the sharing of contemporary developments in the arts.

What opportunities exist for young people taking/or considering A level art? What challenges do they face?

Schools offer artist in residence schemes which support young and upcoming artists - mostly students embarking upon their careers. Annually, we invite students back to our school and thus Art Department to meet with staff, discuss their options and to meet with and teach A-Level students about their practical work. We also offer exhibition space and the necessary logistics. Through our Alumni scheme also, we keep in touch with students and will support their external exhibitions and market them accordingly.

Current challenges really centre upon the job and financial markets – Brexit included. Parents are reluctant to invest in their offspring wishing to pursue such an uncertain career path, and thus they find it hard to kickstart their careers. Teacher-contact time in Art Schools is limited and can indeed lead to problems. Artist’s materials are expensive, and studio space is limited. It’s hard to predict artistic and indeed market trends for the future, thus popularity / appeal and collectability are nigh-on impossible to forecast.

How do you think A level exam reforms have impacted the uptake and interest in Art A level in recent years?

A reduction of A-Level subjects to only three has meant that what was a fourth subject before, such as Art or History of Art, has been less popular, and the number of students taking it for A-Level has diminished. Subjects like the above may be viewed as an extra or an optional experimental A-Level, and thus less essential. So, with a reduction in choice, students are less eager to pick it up, sadly.

 If you could give one piece of advice to an A level art student, what would it be and why?

I would suggest that they should use their former school Art Department as a springboard for starting out, and to find their own voice artistically and stick firmly to the style they believe in as their own. I’d also like to add that I’d be very happy to help any young student starting out in Art and/or History of Art and that I would welcome any questions or the opportunity to talk to them to establish what problems they face.

To find out more about Nick and Arcadia Education please follow this link


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