I enrolled on the two year MFA (Master of Fine Arts) course at Wimbledon in September 2014. Wimbledon is one of the six colleges that make up UAL – University of the Arts London – the largest specialised art and design university in Europe. The other colleges comprising the university are Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion, London College of Communication (formerly Printing), Camberwell College of Arts and Chelsea College of Arts. Wimbledon was on my radar many years ago, particularly because of its links with theatre as well as fine arts and so I was thrilled to be offered a place to study there.
The MFA Fine Art course at Wimbledon aims to ‘support you in claiming your art practice through sustained practical experimentation and contextual research’. Our first term has been extremely demanding and intensive but also hugely stimulating and enjoyable. I am in a year group of 37 students, half of whom are from overseas: countries as far-flung as Japan, Serbia, China, Thailand, USA, Montenegro and Nigeria to name but seven. Nearly all my fellow students have a fine art background and/or are practising artists with an enormous breadth of knowledge and experience between them and an age range from late 20s to mid 60s.
Our course leaders are also practising artists: an exceptionally well-informed and challenging group of tutors. I find that my 1:1 tutorials have to be meticulously prepared as no stone is left unturned by our teachers.
We have access to all manner of workshops at Wimbledon and the 23 resident technicians bend over backwards to be helpful. They are just brilliant. So far I have had inductions in metalwork and casting, the wood workshop, digital media, the TV and film-making studios, the printmaking workshop and the darkroom. I’ve been doing a bit of analogue (old-fashioned black & white) photography and some silk-screen printing and have made ample use of the library at Camberwell and Chelsea as well as Wimbledon (we have access to facilities and tutors at all six UAL colleges which is a huge bonus).
We have a large, light and flexible communal studio space shared with the second year students, and when not working on ‘making’ things (only half of us are actually painters) we have lectures and discussion groups, ‘crits’ of our work by our contemporaries and the tutors (very salutory); pecha kuchas (a Japanese teaching method which means ‘chit chat’ in which one has to speak to an audience at speed about 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each); critical reading groups, collaborative projects (the most recent being two days spent designing a piece of public art at Canary Wharf) and exhibitions (internal and public).
This course is a roller-coaster of experiences and challenges for me and I have to say that to have enrolled at Wimbledon is without doubt one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have not had to think this hard for decades. I’m loving being a student again; paradoxically, my greatest dilemma is whether to use my student ID or my OAP card to take advantage of various discounts!