From Easel to Exhibition: My BTEC in Art and Design

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Alice Cornelia studied a BTEC Extended Diploma in Art & Design at Priestley College in Warrington. This year, she hosted her first exhibition at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery. We spoke to Alice about her experience studying a BTEC and how it helped her develop as an artist.

Why did you choose to do a BTEC?

I’d always enjoyed art and knew I wanted to continue that from high school into college. After attending an opening evening at college, I was informed the BTEC was equivalent to three A levels which for me was great because my timetable would be filled with a variety of art classes. It offered a broad range of creative subjects and with it a freedom to explore.

What did you love most about your BTEC?

It was completely different to high school; I loved the freedom we got during the course. When I specialised in my second year, I loved the space we had, and we could instigate projects in our own ways.

This independence and space were really valuable when we began exploring our personal interests as young artists. They also helped us set the groundwork for the process of articulating our personal practices and projects in future contexts.

It was the first time I felt like I was applying ideas I was passionate about because I had the freedom and guidance to do so. The tutors were ace, too; you could tell they were creatives themselves which really helps to create a great environment to work in. There were tutors and students, but we were all artists figuring stuff out. I felt like I had my own space in college to come and do just that. Being surrounded by people with similar interests is a really great feeling – I didn’t get that at school and I’ve looked for it ever since I finished my BTEC.

BTECs are a good way to explore and try out different things if you are unsure when considering options. There is the option to specialise and tailor the course in a direction you want to go.

What are your career aspirations?

I’ve just graduated from Glasgow School of Art but I’m not sure what job I’d like to do yet. At the moment, I have a small studio where I create my own work. I’m also applying for open calls and artist residencies to network and see where they lead. Additionally, I’ve been exploring art therapy, which I’ve just completed a foundation course in. I’m also interested in going into curation. I’d love to do a masters in moving image sometime in the future.

How do you feel the skills you’ve learnt during your BTEC will help you in your future job?

My BTEC gave me experience in a variety of mediums as well as lots of valuable practical knowledge; painting, drawing, ceramics, jewellery, metal work, graphic design, textiles, art theory and print.

This practical knowledge has also given me an open-minded approach suited to working with artists with varying mediums, as well as an awareness of this within contemporary art research in the context of curation.

An opportunity to work with the local gallery during my BTEC course gave me valuable experience in working with gallery staff, presenting ideas to the creative director ,and the experience of being in a group exhibition. It was all really relevant professional practice for an aspiring artist when working with institutions.

Furthermore, my BTEC course dedicated full classes to art theory, establishing writing, and research skills which carried me through my degree as well as helping with creative applications, open calls, essays and statements.

I think employers value BTECs because of the range of skills gained, particularly practical skills, as they make you employable.

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