No more bohemians

THE ACADEMY of Fine Arts and Design is a favourite with students wanting to study visual communication, design, photography or graphic design.

THE ACADEMY of Fine Arts and Design is a favourite with students wanting to study visual communication, design, photography or graphic design.

According to Bohunka Koklesová, the deputy rector, students don't always choose their study programme according to their future career intentions. This is demonstrated by the relatively high number of students who apply to study free visual disciplines, such as painting.

The Academy of Fine Arts and Design was founded in Bratislava in 1949 as the first institution in Slovakia providing higher education in fine arts. During the communist era artists studying or teaching at the Academy was often restricted by political dogmas promoting the doctrine of socialist realism in the arts. Today the situation is different and the main restrictions come from the lack of financial resources, Koklesová said.

This year the school is undergoing a complex accreditation process, in preparation for which a review of all study programmes, subjects and personnel was undertaken. The school regards this as a milestone in its history.

"It is our ambition that the school be accredited and then included among university-level schools," Koklesová told The Slovak Spectator. She says that one of the problems with the university system in Slovakia is that universities here are ranked according to their publication activities and the ranking is then crucial in obtaining financial help from public resources.

"The problem is that art schools are involved in artistic activities (for instance, exhibitions and festivals) and therefore our school cannot be compared to the scientific universities," Koklesová said, adding that the Ministry of Education and grant agencies don't consider the specific situation of the Academy when distributing their resources.

"Art is incomparable and hard to measure, but that shouldn't be a reason to eliminate or discriminate against us," the deputy rector said.

Every year around 100 students are accepted onto the study programmes offered by the Academy of Fine Arts and Design. The study programmes include painting, drawing, photography, graphic design, industrial design, etc. In the last academic year a new programme, 'intermedia and multimedia,' began running. It focuses on new technologies and a mix of different fine arts.

"Orthodox boundaries between disciplines in contemporary arts are blurred and disciplines mix," said Koklesová, explaining why they opened the new interdisciplinary programme.

For foreign students, who usually come to study at the Academy for a semester within the Erasmus programme, there is the opportunity to choose from among a number of subjects and studios which use English. According to Koklesová, study at the Academy is tailored because it's mostly based on individual consultations with teachers. These individual discussions are also available in English.

"It's quite typical for foreign students to come to our school, because they are interested in studying in the studio of a teacher-artist with an international reputation," she explained. Students come from EU countries as well as the US and Japan. According to Koklesová, with regards to the mobility of students, the Academy is among the best in Slovakia.

"The number of foreign schools willing to cooperate with us is rising, but we are already in a position where we can select the school with whom we wish to sign a bilateral contract," Koklesová said. The Academy's aim is to give as many students as possible the option of studying or working abroad, either through study exchange programmes or internships. Students of the Academy often do their internship in the development and design centres of car manufacturers such as Audi, Volkswagen, Peugeot etc.

"Thanks to their foreign studies students gain not only a new knowledge base, but also the opportunity to try living in a completely new social and cultural environment, which can be extremely stimulating for their creative work, in terms of gaining a new point of view, new materials and technologies," Koklesová told The Slovak Spectator. She added that for arts students their stay abroad involves visiting galleries, museums and getting to know the local culture.

"It's necessary to stress that art is no longer a bohemian thing, an artist just waiting for inspiration. Earning one's living with art is hard work, based on the symbiosis of talent and intellect," Koklesová said. The artist needs to know how to formulate his or her opinion in artistic ways and for that he or she needs to have a wide general knowledge and to be always curious, focused, hardworking and sometimes also revolting, she added. The Academy wants to be a place where the students can learn all this, and therefore the management focuses mainly on selecting experts and teachers.

"For the artist the most important thing is to be recognised in practice, on the market for art, to receive an offer to exhibit from a renowned curator in a prestigious gallery abroad," Koklesová explained. According to her, these are the kind of people the Academy needs, and in many cases has.

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