The National Art School’s intensive studio program for year 11 students
The National Art School of Sydney (NAS) offers the opportunity for Year 11 Art students from across the state to experience what it is like to work and study at a visual arts specialist college each year.
For those that don’t know the National Art School, it is one of Australia’s oldest and well-recognised schools specialising in the visual arts. Located in Darlinghurst behind the State Court of NSW, the school is surrounded by high sandstone walls and occupies the site of the Old Sydney Gaol. The site had been transformed into exhibition spaces and to form specific studios within the old sandstone buildings of the gaol. An inspiring and creative atmosphere hits you as soon as you enter the big black wooden doors at the main entrance. A secret artists’ world lies behind the walls hidden from the noise and busy-ness of the city outside.
The National Art School allows students to apply for the program through the same avenues as if they were applying for tertiary studies. Students must complete an application for entry, including a short essay in addition to a portfolio of their work in a particular form on what they intend or would like to study throughout the program.
The course runs for two weeks during the July and September school holidays, with boarding facilities for non-metropolitan students staying on campus, just as they would if they were attending as students of the National Art School.
In 2016, Tolina Davis submitted an application for digital media and photography. Out of 1700 applicants, she was selected as one of 180 students to participate in the course across a range of forms, an achievement in itself.
The courses are designed to be ‘intensive’ as students only attend for two weeks, covering a vast amount of technical and conceptual ideas that would usually take place over months. The students are challenged both mentally and physically throughout the course.
Tolina had the opportunity to create a 10-page magazine, be involved in the creation of an art blog and produce a series of photos based on the concept of portraiture. The invaluable experience has also helped to refine her skills in digital media, meet a variety of students from across the state and further develop what she is capable of as an artist, not just an art student.
“I found this experience to be unique, insightful and highly educational. Taught in a tertiary manner, we were simply given a topic, Portraiture. Our end goal was to hold an exhibition. Using fellow students, we bounced ideas off each other and worked intensely, collecting dud photos and eventually the ones we truly wanted. Working in collaboration with other students on a similar path enabled me to immerse myself in an environment of creativity and expression,” said Tolina.
In addition to the course for the students, teachers of selected students were offered the opportunity to take part in a Chroma Acrylics Paint workshop and a studio painting workshop presented by Kim Spooner, a practising painting specialist and lecturer at the NAS. This was an amazing opportunity not only to learn about products we use in the classroom but to trial new paint products being developed by Chroma. The day also gave us the opportunity to network with other Stage 6 Visual Arts teachers from around the state.
This opportunity for me as an art teacher reminded me of the joys of being a student again and it was evident that all the teachers present loved the opportunity of learning rather than teaching – an important factor in making ourselves better teachers.
We had the opportunity to explore the campus, visit our students, watching them work from sculpture to ceramics, life drawing to digital media. The array of skills and artworks was awesome. The skills developed and the progress that these students made in such a short amount of time was overwhelming, demonstrating how important a program such as this is for Year 11 students leading in to the commencement of the Higher School Certificate.
The program finished with a viewing of the student exhibition located throughout the campus. From the old cell block through to the round buildings, an array of work went on show demonstrating what students are capable of achieving when working in a visual arts-specific environment.
Despite the uncertain future of the National Art School, the opportunities that they offer to students coming through high school are amazing. Each year the applications open during March. Students are required to complete an application endorsed by their Visual Arts teacher and submit a portfolio. If students are interested in this opportunity for 2017, please express interest and start pulling together images or originals of your work. The development of the folio is key to being accepted, so get started!
For more information, feel free to discuss with myself (Katie Witherdin) about the program and be inspired!