Wimbledon art students go for broke in final year art show


Wimbledon College of Arts students spent thousands of pounds on their undergraduate degree show on Merton Hall Road this week.

By Melanie Kramers and Samantha Colebrooke

Wimbledon College of Arts students spent thousands of pounds on their undergraduate degree show on Merton Hall Road this week.

The staggering costs are on top of annual £3,225 tuition fees, which could leap to £7,000 when an independent review reports this autumn.

Creating their masterpieces – worth 80% of their final mark and an opportunity to impress potential art buyers – left some students unable to afford business cards.

College Dean George Blacklock said: “Our students have foraged and scrimped and scrounged their bank accounts to make these ideas real.

“The sacrifices made to realise this work cannot be underestimated.”

He added: “Quite frankly, I am proud of their achievements and I am proud of them.”

The 6,000 visitors to the week-long show, which ends tomorrow, can enjoy a vibrant array of paintings, sculptures, set designs, costumes and digital art.

But the real cost behind the beautiful works is not displayed.

Technical art student Suzzan Albus’s giant, anatomically correct model of a heart cost a hefty £2,000.

And stumping up £700 to make his eerie, breathing lizard left Sebastian Van Beirs without extra cash to print cards for professional contacts.

Sebastian, 21, admitted money was an issue but remained up-beat about the future.

“You have to be clever with money to work around it,” he said. “I try to stay open-minded and see what will come up.”

Art degrees at Wimbledon today are not just carefree days in the studio splashing paint on a canvas. Classes on professional practice and how to sell your work are an important element.

Sculpture student Alexandra Elinson said she had budgeted carefully throughout her three-year course, using her student loan and wage from a part-time job to buy expensive clay.

She said: “I tried to stick to a budget but had to spend quite a bit of money experimenting. It’s about being economical and not using materials you can’t afford.”

Her final project, a life-size nude ‘everywoman’, cost £1,000.

College bursaries of around £300 are available to help pay for materials, but students say these are poorly advertised and barely cover half their typical costs.

While some better-off students are helped out by parents, others are not so lucky. And the looming fee increases would only make inequalities worse.

Higher fees would cut the number of young people going to university by 45% – hitting those from poorer households disproportionately, reported educational charity Sutton Trust today.

Wimbledon’s senior painting technician, Tim Johnson, hoped the financial burden wouldn’t affect the “jaw-dropping” standard of students’ work.

The college has produced many successful artists, including children’s illustrator Raymond Briggs, fashion designer Phoebe Philo and Olivier award-winner Richard Hudson, set designer for The Lion King on Broadway.

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