The Caldewgate campus in Carlisle has been home to our Fine Art course since 1991, and from September this year the building will be closed and sold off, with all art provision being re-located to Brampton Road.
To many who studied there Caldewgate is more than just a campus, and on hearing the news of the closure a group of alumni got together to discuss how to mark this ‘end of an era’. Led by Genevieve Kay-Gourlay, Class of 2013, here she explains in her own words what the campus and course meant to her and what the plans are to commemorate this historic move.
Course: BA (Hons) Fine Art
Graduation Year: 2013
Current Employer somewhereto_
Job Title Project Manager. I work with creative and enterprising 16-25 year olds helping them find free space to help them do the things they are passionate about.
Where are you from originally?
Have moved around quite a bit, but predominantly lived in West/Central Scotland.
What made you choose the University of Cumbria?
Principal Lecturer, Jane Topping’s visit to my portfolio course planted the seed!
When I came down to visit the facilities were amazing at Caldewgate - the studio sizes, the workshops… there was a great feel about the place and the artists working there seemed like a real community. Plus the reputation of the Fine Art Department and its heritage as Cumbria Institute of the Arts was so rich.
Why did you choose your particular course?
I didn’t really display a passion for Art in an obvious way until I was about 15. Previously I had more of a leaning towards languages and creative writing, but as I went through school I started spending more time in the Art department, took Life Drawing classes and ended up skiving other classes to be in the studio!
After secondary school I went straight into a Fine Art course at an art school in Scotland and, being 18 and quite inexperienced, it was pretty intimidating and I just don’t think I was ready for it.
In all honesty, looking back I should have been encouraged to go and take a portfolio course first, but University seemed like the goal at the time. I ended up leaving my first attempt at university after a eighteen months, taking time out to work and travelling for a year or so before realising Art school was something I wanted to focus on and take seriously.
I signed up for the portfolio preparation course at the Visual Arts Studio at Tramway in Glasgow and my idea of what making could be and the possibilities of an art practice were completely stretched. It was an incredible course and a really valuable experience which convinced me that I wanted to be an artist.
What did you like most about your course?
The studio environment and the relationships between everyone working in the building was excellent. The staff team teach across all three years of the degree course and you develop a relationship with them, whereby they see your practice evolving and communication is very open.
Post-university, working from a desk in the corner of a tiny flat (also known as the kitchen table!), you realise how important a studio and conversation are in the making process. These things which were in abundance and almost taken for granted during University become harder to come by as a graduate artist.
Do you have any particular memorable/funny stories to share?
As part of my final assessment I built a 7ft tall structure to house a video work. It was supposed to hang from a very high ceiling but in order to hang the work I needed a large ladder and about 5 people to help. Feeling a bit behind on time, I decided to paint the outside first before hanging it. It wasn’t until we stopped and I noticed everyone was covered in dark blue paint that I realised perhaps 10 minutes wasn’t enough drying time!
I am also a Director at The Pipe Factory; an arts space and studios in the East End of Glasgow, which provides opportunities for local and international artists as well as recent graduates. We have just recently been awarded a grant from Glasgow City Council and Glasgow City Heritage Trust to begin restoring and repairing the building, providing better facilities for those using the space.
CALDEWGATE brings together work from over 50 alumni and staff from Fine Art during its 24 years at the Caldewgate campus, Newcastle Street. The programme will include a central exhibition in the building featuring work from alumni and staff, discussion events from course founders, a banner-making workshop and March for Art procession between Caldewgate and the Brampton Road campus on Saturday 25 July, seminars, a performance event and 2D exhibition at Open Mind, as well as an anonymous auction to wrap things up!
How did the idea to hold an exhibition of alumni work at Caldewgate come about?
I heard about Fine Art relocating about 6 months ago and was heartbroken! That building means so much to so many people and it was that something had to be done to commemorate and celebrate the whole ethos of the place and what it has enabled so many people to do - to have space, time and support to become the amazing artists they are today.
What does the Caldewgate campus mean to you?
It is make, think, do. It is support and freedom to fail. It is learning to put up 8ft walls and tearing them down again. To quote a pair of posters made years ago by a student (Lucinda Guinness) and tutor (Ciara Phillips) at Caldewgate in response to one another…
The only rule is work/The only rule is play!
What are your thoughts on the move of Fine Art to Brampton Road?
Caldewgate will be sorely missed. It was an amazing building to have the privilege to work in as an artist. Brampton Road will provide Fine Art students with the opportunity to connect with other creative people working across various arts fields. An open dialogue and cross-collaboration between creative disciplines should definitely be encouraged. I hope those transitional students will take what they learned from their time at Caldewgate and foster a similar environment in the new studios.
How has the process been in tracing Caldewgate alumni and encouraging them to take part?
It has been quite difficult at times but always surprising and really positive. Everyone that was traced and told about the project were so incredibly supportive and so emotionally invested in Caldewgate and their time at University that they wanted to get involved in some way or another. Realising that pre-2005 data was much harder to come by and it became that word of mouth was essential.
Without the enormous help of academic staff, Dave Hurn and Mark Wilson from Caldewgate - contacting and tracking down alumni individually, trawling through old Degree Show catalogues, passing the call out through friends of friends of friends to reach those who had become slightly disconnected with the course over the years - I would have been unable to reach so many people. I can’t thank them enough for their perseverance! With over 50 alumni and staff exhibiting, it has certainly paid off!