The RWA gets taken over

Kids in Museums dayStudents from Bristol School of Art were at The RWA for Kids in Museums Takeover Day recently -and, from the feedback we received, it looks like we have some future curators, artists and critics in our midst!

The gallery welcomed a group of 16 Foundation Art and Design Diploma students as part of a national event celebrating children and young people’s contribution to heritage sites.

The students took a tour through the 163 Annual Open exhibition and the Academician Candidate exhibition, analysing this year’s work and developing their critical evaluation skills.

“Today really opened my eyes about what it’s like to work in a gallery. There are roles involved that I didn’t even know existed! I found the day really informative and it will help me in future when I’m applying to exhibit my own work. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to learn all of this anywhere else,” said one student.

Learning to judge
During the day we held a mock-selection process for academician candidates, where the students were asked to assess the work of artists and consider their applications as if they were selecting new academicians. It produced some interesting insights from the students.

“My favourite part of today was being involved with the academician candidate selection process,” said Georgina Murray. “We looked at their work in depth and then had discussions to share our thoughts. Throughout the day I was constantly re-evaluating. We then all sat together reading the statements, exhibition descriptions and artist CVs. I thought I had already made my decision but after reading it all, my mind was changed. I truly felt that I was being tested but also felt that I was really lucky to be a part of something so important to the artists.”

“I found it really enlightening to go through the step-by-step selection process involved in choosing the new Academicians. It gave me a much better idea of the requirements and level of skill expected of applications,” said Maria Kate Betts.

Subjective vs. objective
As part of the day’s activities, students were encouraged to consider their decision making process and separate the subjective and objective. It certainly provoked some debate among the students.

“Given this rare opportunity to delve into the underbelly of the Royal West of England Academy we were able to analyse this historical institution from an insider’s perspective,” said Alexandra Fraser. “Looking at the varied pieces that were submitted, it is unclear how you are meant to judge the best work, with the experience of art being so subjective.

“Various questions arose: How does the curation of the pieces affect our experience of them? Are we supposed to take the work at face value? To what extent are we to include artist’s statements about their work in our evaluation of it? How should the artist’s CV be used in support of the application? How should we consider media? Is it OK to vote for as photographer because we want more photography in mainstream galleries?

“When it came to voting, I could only rely on my personal aesthetic and emotional response to the works. It was interesting to see that we all voted very differently, the work had affected us in different ways. It was fascinating to have a peek into a traditional institution of art and have an opportunity to reflect on my own evaluation and experience of the art of others”.

“Art is a subjective thing, so I can understand that to judge with a consistency is a tough thing to do,” said Maxine Cole. “It was wonderful getting an insight into process of choosing a new RWA Academician. It’s given me a better idea of what the judges are looking for and the process they go through to make their decisions. Consequently, I think this will really help me decide what I should put forward when I submit work in the future.”

Overall, feedback from the students was extremely positive and we look forward to taking part in next year’s event!

You can see what other galleries and museums did for Takeover Day by following the hashtag #TakeoverDay on Twitter.


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