Samar Zia: UAL Alumni of Colour Association Creative Regroup
Written bySamar Zia
Published date23 March 2022
Samar Zia joined the UAL Alumni of Colour Association in 2021, as Curator of Events. Samar’s first event was the UAL Alumni of Colour Association Creative Regroup in March, where she met with many other amazing creative alumni of colour. Read her experiences below.
Ever since graduating from Fine Art MA in 2013 at Central Saint Martins (CSM), I’ve maintained a link with UAL by applying to various exhibitions, attending career seminars and other events.
I have also maintained my visual art practice, exhibiting my work both in UK and Pakistan, as well as writing exhibition reviews for various publications in Pakistan. As a visual artist, I’ve always been very interested in science and technology, and my work references biotechnology and climate change. Additionally, I’ve curated exhibitions independently in London, worked as an associate artist, facilitated artmaking as well as participated in artist residency programs.
I decided to join the Alumni of Colour Association (AoCA) last year because I wanted to meet other creative UAL alumni from different cultures and backgrounds. The Creative Regroup event was my first in my role as a committee member, and I truly enjoyed the interpersonal exchange with creatives, and not just because we have recently come out of a tough lockdown!
The other AoCA committee members and I had decided to make the event as comfortable and interactive as possible, and because of this, there was so much creative energy and feedback in the room. Instead of one-way speeches, or simply roaming the room to network, there were six long tables, with all the 48 attendees taking a seat on a table headed up by one of the committee members.
It was an absolute pleasure to speak with alumni who graduated from last year all the way back to the 1970s. UAL hasn’t always looked the way it does today, and its long history has included name changes and re-brands. So many of the alumni I spoke to hadn’t experienced the same University experience as myself. This diversity enriched the evening, allowing for a glimpse of the past and present at the same time, to learn from the more senior alumni experiences, as well as hearing from more recent graduates who represent the future.
Some of the conversations I enjoyed were hearing from an alum of Iraqi origin, and a successful jewellery designer who had travelled all the way from Oxford to join us. She shared that she has been waiting for a network of alumni of colour since the 1970s!
The theme I wanted to discuss on the night was the notion of a Shift of Focus. I was really encouraged to meet such a resilient and enterprising group of people, some who have switched careers, some making sustainable choices with regards to their work and profession. We spoke about how we can help each other with our particular expertise, through collaboration and the possibility of having access to a database of alumni to build upon the supportive network the AoCA already is. I really connected with the alumni I spoke to, and we are now all following each other on social media to help each other with new job prospects and opportunities. We also discussed the LinkedIn group which is a useful resource for UAL alumni of colour who want to share opportunities.
I got the impression that many of the attendees left the event having connected with friends old and new, and also potential joint prospects. Many of the attendees I spoke to expressed an interest in coming to similar events in the future. I look forward to meeting some of these alumni again, to bounce ideas off, to learn from and hopefully work together at some point. It would be fair to say that time passed really quickly, and the event was over before we were ready to stop talking!
Joining the AoCA is a great opportunity to not only meet with other amazing creatives of colour but also to keep up with developments in the cultural landscape. So, the more alumni that join us, the stronger our network, and the more impact we can have in the creative industries.