In a ceremony held at Theatre Royal Plymouth, 400 students graduated from Plymouth College of Art, with a range of creative degrees at Undergraduate, Foundation and Masters levels, including Ceramics, Illustration, Game Arts, Fashion Media & Marketing, and Visual Communication.
In a highly competitive sector, the college has seen its number of undergraduate students increase year on year. Plymouth College of Art’s graduating cohort of students has risen by over 50% in two years, with 231 graduating students in 2016, to over 350 this year. The diverse selection of programmes available to undergraduate and postgraduate students continues to develop each year.
Every year Plymouth College of Art awards Honorary Fellowships to recognise exceptional achievement in the creative arts, as well as recognising individuals that have achieved significant social change through the arts and culture.
At the graduation ceremony, the college awarded Honorary Fellowships to Mike Westbrook OBE, renowned musician, to Clare Twomey, a leading British ceramics and performance artist, as well as Guardian and Observer photographer Suki Dhanda and former Director of Plymouth Arts Centre Bernard Samuels.
During her acceptance speech, Clare Twomey said: “As an artist I have made over 100,000 objects in the past 20 years, most of these have been stolen, broken or saved. Why? because there were stories to be told because there were moments to draw people together. Art can do this.
“It is important to be an artist and I believe in the transformative and communicative role that art has in our society.
“You are all as artists going out into the world, this gives you a voice, a unique voice, a voice that can reach further and be more agile than other voices we can hear. Your voice will not sound like other people’s voices, that is your burden and your gift. Art affords you a space that is unique, that conjures respect and curiosity. These are the things we need from you, these are the things I believe we can give as artists to our culture and society.”
Mike Westbrook OBE is an internationally renowned jazz musician and a key figure in the development of British jazz, whose career began when he started his first band while studying at Plymouth College of Art in 1958, then named Plymouth Art School. In his acceptance speech, Mike spoke of his history with the college, and the influence it had on him when he first attended art school fifty years ago.
“Having been used to ‘doing my own thing’ I didn’t take kindly to criticism. I still don’t. I had to learn to be self-critical, to question, never be too easily satisfied. And to realise that however far you think you’ve gone in understanding, you can always go further, dig deeper.
“Going to Plymouth Art School was a turning point in my career. It is one for which I am eternally grateful, and I am indeed honored to receive this Honorary Fellowship.”
British Asian photographer Suki Dhanda, whose portraits of subjects for The Observer and The Guardian include Blue Planet presenter Sir David Attenborough, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, singer and actress Rihanna, and artist Yoko Ono was also honoured at this year's ceremony. Suki is an alumna of Plymouth College of Art and during her acceptance speech, she recalled her time studying at the college 30 years ago and how collaborating with other creatives from different backgrounds influenced her practice.
“I made some lifelong friendships, particularly women who are all successful photographers and we still continue supporting one another after all these years.
“Last year The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art invited me to develop new work for an exhibition. My time in Plymouth left me feeling optimistic. I saw the lives of so many people, who are all part of the same city, no matter what.”
"Art affords you a space that is unique, that conjures respect and curiosity. These are the things we need from you, these are the things I believe we can give as artists to our culture and society."
— Clare Twomey
Bernard Samuels was the first full-time Director of Plymouth Arts Centre, from 1971 to 1996, and is credited with discovering the much-loved British artist Beryl Cook. Upon his retirement, he was bequeathed the entire artistic estate of notable artist Ben Hartley. Samuels has since shared this work through major and retrospective exhibitions, newly composed music and two illustrated books.
Plymouth College of Art awarded an Honorary Fellowship to Bernard Samuels in recognition of his outstanding achievement in the social impact of the Arts in Plymouth, and his advocacy for emerging artists.
We’re so proud of all our graduates, below we’ve highlighted a handful of them who have already achieved so much…
Since finishing her degree, Fashion Media & Marketing graduate Poppy Baker secured an internship with iconic British designer Henry Holland. Known for his slogan tees and bold, colourful designs, Henry Holland has collaborated with high street retailer Debenhams since 2009. Originally pitching to Henry as part of a competition to win a Debenhams internship, Poppy’s presentation impressed him so much that he asked her to intern with his own company instead.
3D Design Craft graduates and joint winners of the college’s Principal’s Award for Enterprise and Innovation, Renovat Moody, Alice and Bethany Antliff, Susan Holmes and Katherine Howes have access to an incubator space and business mentoring for their start-up business Luna Studios, with plans to support emerging artists as they leave education by providing access to a collaborative open studio space, encouraging sustainable practice.
At Graduate Fashion Week, Fashion graduate Lan Chen’s final collection ‘From Hugs’ won her a portfolio review and interview with international fashion recruitment agency Denza, as well as being hand-picked for the Best of Graduate Fashion Week catwalk show. Since finishing her studies she has completed an internship at Hiut Denim and is visiting manufacturers in China to further develop her understanding of the industry.
Graphic Design graduate Josh Silvester designed and made his own custom gown worn at the ceremony, a first for a Plymouth College of Art graduation ceremony but a move that has inspired current students to get designing. The gown maintains elements of traditional ceremonial dress while incorporating the style of his own streetwear brand, Kamefla.