AA2A - the College's point of view
The hidden and not so hidden benefits of AA2A - Kate La Barre
Herefordshire College of Art & Design has been involved with AA2A for three years now. To begin with, it seemed yet another external project, time-consuming and lengthy on already over-loaded staff, despite the obvious benefits of the scheme. On this occasion we got our act together, and thank goodness we did. The initial application paperwork could have easily ended up in someones pending tray, never to be seen again! (How often can that happen?)
In our first year we did struggle to manage the project. We lacked the admin support to get the project off the ground and someone to co-ordinate everything, particularly on a day-to-day basis. Communication within the institution was also essential. In the first year not many staff members knew about the artists or the scheme. For marketing potential, it passed me by in the first year because I simply was not told much about it ; no-ones fault, just the way things are. Subsequent years I became more involved, I wanted to know who these people were that I bumped into on a regular basis - so I asked!
Being a shallow marketing person I'm afraid I completely took advantage of the PR possibilities and used AA2A at every opportunity to raise the profile of the College. It is an extremely good story for us. We are a small, specialist art & design college in the West Midlands. We may be small but we are great at what we do, and don't often get the opportunity to tell the world about ourselves unlike our larger, higher profiled cousins in the art & design world!
Identifying a Administrator, (Rita Chamberlain in our case - a fantastic person, brilliantly organised who has also enjoyed working with the artists over the years) was absolutely key to the success of the project. Alan Hughes, Head of Academic Affairs, was initially our Coordinator and has also been essential to the success of AA2A. As well as a senior member of the academic staff, he is a practising artist himself, who has focused on the quality of the applications and setting up selection panels, making sure the criteria of the project keeps on track. We also must mention Wendy Mason always the voice of reason and understanding who drives the project nationally and co-ordinates a finely-tuned project. She knows and understands the pressures placed on art colleges and artists. All this, together with 3 years experience, and the thing virtually runs itself.
From a PR point of view there is an enormous added value to AA2A. If you look at the cycle of opportunities the scheme allows; from advertising and recruiting artists onto the scheme, exhibitions by the artists (we now have an annual exhibition firmly fixed into our exhibition programme which brings new visitors into the College and generates publicity), to detailing the scheme in our prospectus, which has a contribution to make to recruitment.
Other spin offs include: two AA2A artists now employed by the College, vibrant up and coming friends of the College who go away and talk about us, and return as friends. They also include us in their portfolio/CVs and become great Ambassadors for the College.
Four years on and AA2A is firmly part of the College life. The admin and structure is under control and containable, the number of applications from artists wanting to work here is fantastic, it is always intriguing to know who will be selected, and we are thrilled that so many artists want to come and work here under this scheme, even if they do not get selected.
The staff and students quickly befriend the artists now and make them feel at home. They are considered members of staff and are often involved with the curriculum, lecture programmes, social events and of course - the students, who are all bright enough to recognise the enormous benefits and expertise these artists bring with them.
Thank you AA2A, you are part of the furniture now!
Kate La Barre