The BA Fine Art course at Central Saint Martin’s offered woefully slim professional development provisions last year. In their defence they’ve made some dramatic changes in time for next year’s graduates, but it’s meant that anything the Class of 2007 has put together so far has been entirely self-initiated. And I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing in terms of preparation for the real world. Aside from the time and support I needed to pursue my practice, my time at art school has mainly given me a brilliant network of peers and the confidence to use the word ‘artist’ in reference to myself.
But it’s a fragile situation to be in, because those are both things in danger of fading fast in the years following graduation. It seems to me that as a rule, most things in the world set out to impede the smooth transition from artist-in-art-school to artist-in-world. Lucy Day has some interesting things to say about this in her essay After Art School in the Degrees Unlimited section of the a-n site, which is well worth having a look at. She works as an artist, curator, consultant and lecturer, and she says her varied experience means she’s familiar with lots of the issues facing young artists today as they leave university. She writes:
Amongst the most significant challenges for new graduates is the ability to sustain their practice in comparative isolation. It is telling that a sizeable number of artists stop practising in the five years after they leave art college – although figures are notoriously difficult to confirm.
Research and reflection are common practice whilst at college and yet can often be the first thing to be sacrificed on graduating. Understanding the vagaries of the art world and how the market operates may seem daunting, however organisations and individuals supporting artists professional development are now commonplace. […] From monthly peer critiques initiated and facilitated by arts organisations (for example at SPACE and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London), supported programmes such as a-n’s NAN (Networking Artists Networks) initiative to self-determined projects and glocal networks artists have the ability to create important allies and disseminators for their work. Forming relationships with emerging curators and later with gallerists can provide artists with platforms for their work as well as critical appraisal and context. Knowledge and information are key to realising projects and developing one’s practice.