Plymouth College of Art is a specialist, independent art school offering a range of study across Art, Design and Digital – from BA (Hons) Degrees and MA to Extended Diplomas, Foundations and more. Our college has strong links with the wider community. We run a busy national and international programme of visiting artists, exhibitions, public events and partnership activities.
High-quality education for life in contemporary arts practice, as the creative catalyst for personal, professional and cultural transformation.
Places the aspirations and support needs of every student at the very heart of our creative enterprise.
As an independent specialist Art College since 1856 is to provide a distinctive, innovative and supportive learning community in contemporary arts practice; to add value to the cultural, social and economic life of Plymouth and the South West region; and to develop our distinctive profile of our work nationally and internationally.
We believe in the centrality of the arts to social value, culture, community, welfare, and prosperity;
We uphold the primary significance of learning through practice and participation for individual development, transformation and fulfilment;
We see our College as a crucible, or laboratory, for artistic experiment, exchange, entrepreneurship and innovation, and for new thinking, in the service of our wider communities;
We value and invite purposeful, mutual partnership;
We celebrate social and cultural diversity, and encourage engagement with the community and cross-cultural dimensions of learning in local, regional, national and international contexts;
We respect our environment, and have a strong commitment to sustainable practice;
We aspire to the highest standards of contemporary art practice and achievement.
Social Impact Statements:
Social Impact Statements
The Social Enterprise Gold Mark criteria includes a requirement that the applicant can demonstrate that social and/or environmental objectives are being achieved.
In support of this, new applicants and renewing Mark holders must submit Social Impact Statements that summarise their headline activities and achievements, helping show how they are striving to make a difference and stand up to scrutiny of purpose as a social enterprise.
Updated June 2017
1) Commitment to place making and community regeneration
As an organisation with a clearly articulated commitment to place making and place based regeneration we have continued to invest in our students and the city. This can be demonstrated through the opening of our £8m craft and digital fabrication studios in 2014 and the establishment of a dedicated Pre-degree campus in 2016. This measured growth and development has secured our local pre-degree students (approx. 600) and facilitated the growth of our HE student numbers from approx. 400 to approx. 1300 between 2006 and 2016.
In response to damaging educational policy decisions and in recognition of the importance of creative education for all, in 2014 PCA sponsored the establishment of Plymouth School of Creative Arts (PSCA). The first of its kind in the UK, PSCA is an all through school (3-16) specialising the in the use of creative education to deliver all subjects. PSCA has had a transformational impact on education, regeneration and community in equal measure.
The developmental activity outlined above has led to the establishment of a unique continuum of creative education from pre-school to postgraduate study. As such, we have an educational vehicle through which we encourage and facilitate individual agency leading to personal and community transformation.
2) Creating social impact
We lead and support a wide range of initiatives that result in a direct positive social impact. A number of these initiatives are outlined below as case studies:
Plymouth School of Creative Arts
In 2012 the state of art and creativity in education was becoming critical. Damaging policy decisions by central government coupled with unhealthy competitive behavior at a local level meant that art subjects were steadily dropping out of the curriculum at primary school and the possibility to combine art with other subject blocks at secondary school was increasingly limited.
The impact on the education of young people, locally and nationally, was simply not acceptable. Not only were young people not aware of the progression and career opportunities available within the creative industries, but they were also not being given the opportunity to flourish in other subject areas. It is well documented that engagement with arts and creativity helps to approve attainment in all subjects as well as shaping a more rounded individual who has agency and is engaged with their community.
In response to this Plymouth College of Art took decisive action and submitted an application to establish a 4-16 all through school supported by the free school initiative. The concept was launched in Plymouth in January 2012 and by March we had received the support of over 360 parents who confirmed they would select this school as their first choice.
The application was successful and we opened the primary phase in September 2013 and the secondary phase in September 2014. The school has been hailed by Tate Director Nicholas Serota at the formal opening of The Red House 7 as ‘an event in the history of education in this country’. The vision for Plymouth School of Creative Arts grows out of our established art college ethos in response to the serious erosion of the arts and creativity in schools.The school is a place for making things – making ideas, making technology, making art – for discovering how knowledge, values and language, identity or experience is made. It is a place of performance in both senses: performance as doing; performance as achievement. A place of creative learning in all subjects.
The School shares the core values of Plymouth College of Art:
- we believe in the centrality of creativity to individual and social value, identity, culture, community, welfare, and prosperity;
- we uphold the primary significance of learning through making, practice and participation for individual development, transformation and fulfilment
- we see our School as a laboratory for innovation, and for new thinking, in the service of our wider communities;
- we value and invite purposeful, mutual partnership;
- we celebrate social and cultural diversity, and encourage engagement with the community and cross-cultural dimensions of learning in local, regional, national and international contexts;
- we respect our environment, and have a strong commitment to sustainable practice;
- we aspire to the highest standards of educational achievement.
Our goal is to secure academic excellence and our learners’ ambitions through structure with a purpose, and our purpose can be described in just four words – Creating Individuals, Making Futures.
The school is situated in an area of high deprivation and child poverty. As such the school is as much a community and regeneration project as it is an education initiative. The school acts as a hub for the community, hosting events and groups throughout the week. Unusually the school also took a decision to allow other organisations to collocate in the building. Organisations as diverse as a hip-hop group called Street Factory, Plymouth Dance Development Agency and the Race Equality Council. This creates a dynamic teaching environment and exposes the students and community to organisations and activities that they may not otherwise be aware of.
The establishment of the school has created a unique continuum of creative learning from pre-school to post graduate study unlike any other model in the country or even the world. It is a project of national significance achieving local impact.
PCA established a public gallery on the Tavistock Place Campus ten years ago. This was in support of the college’s mission to bring high quality artists to Plymouth for the benefit of staff, students and our public audience as well as a mechanism through which we could profile Plymouth and South West based artists to the world.
Over the past ten years the gallery has hosted hundreds are artist exhibitions and public lectures through an annual programme. This helps to raise the aspiration of students and exposes them to opportunities to work with artists in a professional context whilst still studying. All exhibitions and lectures are open to the public free of charge to help encourage and support access to the arts.
In 2013 we established the South West Showcase, an open call process where three South West artists are selected to exhibit in the gallery. This is open to early stage artists and those who wish to experiment with new work. It’s a unique platform for emerging artists to exhibit in a professional gallery context and to receive positive exposure. In all instances the artists work closely with the staff and students to offer talks, masterclasses and tutorials.
The Gallery is an important learning and teaching resource and wherever possible we seek to create opportunities for students to engage with the professional art world. For example the exhibition Echo was curated by eight Contemporary Craft students who selected work from the crafts council archive . Similarly the partnership multi site show Sinopticon a number of film students formed a production team to create the work by Erika Tan.
Creating Social Enterprises
The college is itself a learning organisation, always seeking to develop new ways of working through innovative partnerships and business models. We believe in purposeful, mutual partnership and as such have developed a number of innovative social enterprises with partner organisations in the city, an example of which is shown below:
Plymouth Product Range
Plymouth College of Art and RIO are working in partnership to develop an innovative social enterprise supporting the cultural heritage sector. The enterprise will work with designers, artists and makers to develop a distinctive product range that celebrates and showcases Plymouth's heritage.
The range of souvenirs and gifts will be inspired by and reflect Plymouth and the creativity of the city. They will provide a platform for home grown creative talent to reach new and untapped local and international audiences. At specific points the range will introduce limited edition lines that celebrate significant Plymouth anniversaries, for example the sailing of Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the pacific and the Founding of the Royal Academy of the Arts by Joshua Reynolds. In so doing, we will prepare the way for a Mayflower product line in support of the 2020 commemorations.
The initiative will have real social impact for the city by supporting graduate retention, offering a route to employment within the creative industries and fostering international collaborations. The establishment of this design and production facility will provide a sustainable model for employing and supporting makers within the city. Importantly the profits from the sale of products will be reinvested into the enterprise and initiatives that build on the concept of making, collaboration and internationalisation.
The project is not an exercise in replicating historical artifacts but rather developing and making a citywide brand by celebrating the very elements that have shaped the city.