What a difference a day made,
Twenty-four little hours.
Brought the sun and the flowers,
Where there used to be rain (Maria Grever).
Sunshine! 8.30 am: Off to school to help prepare for the first Open Day of the new recruitment round:
9.00 am: An emergency pastoral meeting. 9.30 am: I was stationed on the help desk for the course of the morning. Our visitors began pushing past the door shortly afterwards. I recalled taking my own children around the country to attend such events. As an academic, you know too much about what lies beneath. No HE institution is perfect; indeed, its flaws and idiosyncrasies are part of what makes a place distinct and loveable. My baseline of expectation was always: ‘Will this place enable my children to find and be themselves? A solid curriculum, pastoral and administrative support, learning facilities, campus context, good job prospects, and social amenities do not, in themselves, guarantee this. What I remember best, and appreciated most, about my own art school education were the teachers: their integrity, confidence, inspirational example, commitment to their subject and me, and compassionate intelligence. I would rather be educated in a shack with mentors of their calibre than in a pristine, bells and whistles university by mere professionals.
I dealt with several MA Fine Art inquirers after 11.00 am. At this level, applicants are searching for something else. Having found who they are as human beings, they’re intent on securing the same confidence as emerging professional artists. Their appetite for education is formidable. They want to go beyond. (PhD applicants, for their part, want to go beyond beyond.)
Over the lunch hour, an AS-level student asked: ‘How can I distinguish my application to this art school?’ The question alone demonstrated an earnestness and a commitment to ambition. What distinguishes an applicant is neither their personal statement nor the teacher’s reference, principally, but, rather, evidence of objective drawing in the portfolio that they bring to interview. Too few secondary school students have the opportunity for prolonged, intensive, and instructed drawing at GCSE and A level. This is not the fault of the teachers; the subject’s curriculum precludes the opportunity. Objective drawing reveals the student’s attitude, aptitude, intelligence, and personality like nothing else. ‘Draw, draw, draw, draw, and draw’, I say. ‘And … start writing. ‘When you visit an exhibition, observe with a notebook in hand’; ‘turn seeing into thinking’; ‘articulate your perceptions to yourself, verbally’.
The afternoon was quieter to begin. Time for some admin catchup. MA applications keep pouring in. Mid afternoon … the sluice gate opened. I conducted a continual series of BA and MA application consultations until 5.00 pm. A peculiar spirit of high seriousness descended on the discussions, such that I’ve not experienced often before in this context.
‘In a glass darkly’:
5.00 pm: For the next hour and a half, a member of staff from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and I discussed plans for a forthcoming partnership collaboration on the topic of memory, dementia, and archives. My mind was awash with possibilities. I’m hoping that our PhD and MA contingent will be able to participate in the delivery of workshops and events.
6.30 pm: My other life. Off to the parish rectory for a Holy Trinity Church Committee:
8.30 pm: Homeward and dinnerward.