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Students have amazing designs on art school workspace for British Art Show 9


A group of Art & Design and Product Design A-Level students from the Thomas Telford University Technical College (TTUTC), based at the University of Wolverhampton’s £120 million Springfield Campus, are working with local artists to create an ‘art school within an art school’ for the forthcoming British Art Show 9 (BAS9) exhibition coming to Wolverhampton on 22 January 2022.

The TTUTC students are working with BAS9 artist Mark Essen, who is based in Birmingham, and local artist, Sahjan Kooner, to design a range of furniture for a creative workshop space in the George Wallis Building, on the University’s City Campus in Wolverhampton, where BAS9 will be exhibited. 

Additionally supported and mentored by students, lecturers and technicians from the University of Wolverhampton School of Art Product Design degree course, they have worked on preliminary designs for the new space with a variety of wood, metals and plastics.

The project, School of the Underkraft (2021-22), has been supported by the Arts Council England Project Grant for National Activities and is geared towards students between the ages of 12 and 21 whose learning has been disrupted during the pandemic. School of the Underkraft will offer schools and colleges an opportunity to undertake workshops in an alternative project space. 

The workspace will be available for schools, artists and groups to book and will also be utilised by the teachers and young people who are part of the BAS9 Learning Programme, which is being led by Arts Connect and the University of Wolverhampton School of Art. 

Nadia Paul, 17, who is studying Art, 3D Architecture, Physics and Construction at TTUTC, said: “I want to be an architect. I’ve always had a real passion for it, ever since I was a young girl, playing with Lego and watching Grand Designs. I feel incredibly lucky because not many students get the opportunity to do this. With this project I feel like I’ve left a mark, not only on them, but in the space as well – I feel like I’ve left a piece of me.” 

Joshua Aston, 18, who is studying Art and Double Construction at TTUTC, said: “I approached my design by looking at the building and looking at the School of Art and seeing how I could bring the outside in. Through this project I’ve learned to take on board criticism and to look at the function of the piece. It’s great to see something go from being a design on paper to something that is going to be used by the public.” 

Mark Essen, BAS9 artist, said: “This is a really exciting project which is bringing together our local education community to explore and push the boundaries of creative arts and design.”

“There will be self-guided activity briefs in the workspace for school groups or family groups which have been designed by local Arts Connect artists. We'll also be running a reading group for University students and giving local artists access to the space to use for the duration of the show. School tours coming to the show will be able to use the space for workshops.” 

Kate Yardley, department head for Design at TTUTC, said: “This is a fabulous opportunity for our students to showcase their designing and practical skills on a live project. The experience will be invaluable to their next steps.” 

Becky Thompson, BAS9 Learning Programme Lead, said: “It’s such an honour to be working with Mark Essen to develop a socially engaged space where young people can reflect on what they have experienced in BAS9 and create their own contemporary artworks. It’s important to us that local artists are part of the BAS9 Learning Programme so it’s fantastic that we have been able to work with Joanna Fursman, Sophie Huckfield, Mark Riley, Thomas Eke and Larissa Shaw who are all designing activities for the School of the Underkraft space.” 

Rhys Thomas, Senior Lecturer (Course Leader) in 3D Design at the University, said: “The TTUTC/BAS9 collaboration has provided an excellent opportunity for our Level 6 students and Alumni to input professional knowledge and skills into what has been an exciting, design led project.  

“Expertise in both Product, Furniture, and Interior Design has helped the students at Thomas Telford get real, hands-on experience on a time-constrained project; allowing them to experience what it would be like to pursue a professional career in the creative industries.” 

British Art Show 9 will be exhibited across two venues in Wolverhampton from 22 January to 10 April 2022: Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the University of Wolverhampton School of Art.

BAS9 is recognised as the most important and ambitious recurrent exhibition of contemporary art produced in the UK. Taking place every five years it brings the work of artists defining new directions in contemporary art to four UK cities. For BAS9 in Wolverhampton, the exhibition will focus on how we live with and give voice to difference, showcasing 34 artists whose works investigate identity from an intersectional perspective.

By exploring coexisting identities such as class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, these works will be presented in critical dialogue with Wolverhampton’s cultural history which has been shaped by the diverse populations that came to work and live there during the post-war period.       

British Art Show 9 is a Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition in collaboration with the cities of Aberdeen, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth and is curated by Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar.

Four of the new works in the tour are made possible with the generous support of the Art Fund and these will be acquired by museum partners in each city for their own collections, as a marker of the lasting legacy of this ambitious touring show.  

BAS9 will also benefit from the support of Arts Council England’s Project Grant for National Activities which is allowing partners to produce ambitious and wide-ranging programmes of creative learning, civic engagement and participation that will further extend the reach of BAS9 across the four partner cities. 

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