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The transformative impact of Foundation Art and Design

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Foundation art work from from Florence Blunt
Foundation art work from from Florence Blunt
Florence Blunt, Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Central Saint Martins
Written by
Chris Roberts
Published date
15 January 2021

In preparation for our upcoming event on 11 Feb: A spotlight on Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, we spoke to panel member Chris Roberts, Programme Director of Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Central Saint Martins, about the benefits of delivering and studying Foundation.

This spotlight session has been designed for centres that do not currently run the Level 3 and 4 Foundation Diploma in Art and Design but are interested in delivering it. It is also part of our Teach Inspire Create programme of digital events in 2021.

You can book on to the session using the button below. Or, alternatively, email approvals.awarding@arts.ac.uk to register your interest.

“My Foundation year was the best year of my education” is not an actual quote from anyone in particular but is so often the kind of response you get when you ask someone who did a Foundation course how it shaped or influenced them.

So why is that the typical reply? There are many reasons of course. For many, it is their first experience of being at Art School and in a free-thinking, creative and experimental environment. For some, it is where they meet their life or business partner too. It is different to school because they have chosen to be there and, often for the first time, they are surrounded by other like-minded people, all determined to make their way in the world with art, design and creativity as a kindred mantra.

It’s also often on Foundation that young individuals, and some older individuals, are introduced to a new set of skills and a different way of thinking about creative solutions. The learning activities are spontaneous, improbable and challenging, and students gradually realise things about themselves and make ambitious work they hadn’t imagined possible. Guidance from specialist tutors helps students to understand where their skills may be best utilised so they can explore and later focus on a chosen creative discipline. Larger courses can offer a broader range of disciplines, but all courses aim to do the same thing: support students to identify a specialist subject area and help them progress to specialist undergraduate degrees or employment in their chosen area.

There are many important aspects of the creative process on Foundation. Research, sketchbooks, reflection and writing all play a part, but it is when these elements come together that their value as a creative practice can be seen. This combination enables students to establish innovative and imaginative techniques, helping them to engage with the things that interest them most and better understand their strengths. Foundation is a time to become socially aware and discover themes that, for many creatives, remain part of practices for years to come. The vast range of creative undergraduate courses on offer in the UK can be a daunting prospect for students and, for many, it is not until they have had a Foundation year that they can identify the courses that suit their skills and interests.

By the end of the Foundation year, students have developed new skills, interests and confidence, as well as a more mature, ambitious and independent way of working. This is all excellent preparation for their next course or future career, but the experience of Foundation goes far beyond the subject knowledge. The confidence, communication and creative, analytical and problem-solving skills developed can be applied to a wide variety of creative careers and endeavours. I think this is why people remember their Foundation experience so fondly: it has informed their life. The transformative impact of education is bandied around a lot, but I genuinely believe that Foundation has this long-lasting effect.

Florence Blunt, who in 2019 became a specialist Fashion student on Foundation, and in 2020 progressed to Central Saint Martin’s prestigious BA Fashion Print course, said of her time on the course:

“The fast pace of foundation really helped me to push my limits. I think overall it has made me work a lot harder and a lot faster. The emphasis on experimentation has also impacted my visual communication and I have learnt not to be afraid of trying something completely new”

I would say that Foundation still represents the best value (free for students under 19) and the best possible way to prepare for specialist undergraduate study in art and design subjects. Indeed, I’d recommend anyone do a Foundation course as a way of opening their eyes to amazing possibilities, meeting interesting people, exploring new ideas and developing an individual and creative approach to living their life. It’s a life choice as much as an educational one.

To register for the Spotlight on Foundation Diploma in Art and Design event, please email approvals.awarding@arts.ac.uk.

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