Mrs Val Ashby BA (Hons)
Name: Mrs Val Ashby
Job Title: Programme Manager, Lecturer
Address: Cornwall College, Camborne, Trevenson Road, Pool, Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 3RD
Tel: 01209 616385
I am currently undertaking an MA in Art and the Environment at University College Falmouth.
“For centuries artists have interpreted and represented the natural environment. It has provided materials and subject matter, as well as inspiration and knowledge.
In recent times – particularly since the growth of the environmental movement – there has been a dramatic change in our understanding of the many ways our society impacts upon the Earth. This awareness has galvanised around the fact that the relationship between humanity and our life-giving planet is in a critical state.
This change in knowledge has been reflected in contemporary art practice. MA Art & Environment encourages a focused engagement with ecological and environmental issues. Designed to give you the skills, expertise and confidence to operate as a professional artist in this critical area of practice, the course will also enable you to develop strategies and practices that use art as a cultural agent – as a tool for knowledge, understanding and change”
This is a relatively new course and it is one of very few with this specific focus. This means that it seems to attract students with strongly held common values but a very diverse range of backgrounds and areas of particular concern. Amongst my peers there are photographers, film makers, an actress, ceramicists, and environmentalists working for national organizations with students coming from the States, Norway and Italy as well as the UK. A strong group dynamic has been established through the structure of the course which delivers taught sessions and fieldtrips – of which there are many - to both full time and part time students. This makes for a particularly stimulating studying environment.
Teaching is delivered over full days on Wednesday and Thursday and this takes the form of seminars, lectures, talks by artists and environmentalists, film screenings and field trips. Many of the lectures into research methodologies and philosophies are shared across the MA programs. There is also the excellent MA lecture series on Wednesday evenings, often organized in collaboration with other local arts organizations such as the Tate, which provides the opportunity for us to hear internationally recognized artists talk about their work and practice.
The field trips have been an important part of the course, offering us a wide variety of experiences on which to reflect, and highlighting that the ethos of the course is one of activity and connection and not one which is purely individualistic and studio based. On average these happen every other week and have included visits to different arts education organizations, old gunpowder workings, organic gardens and a working quarry as well as time spent gathering seaweed and making traditional crab pots and a weekend residential participating in an environmental arts event in the North Devon Biosphere.
The impact of the films and seminars dealing with environmental issues are hard hitting and thought provoking and provide strong contexts and narratives for the development of artwork.
The course started with a shared module on Research Methodologies, designed to establish a research-based arts practice which we recorded in individual log books. We are now working on two further modules based on experimentation in our practice and the theoretical underpinnings to this.