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 Declaration: Social-Impact-Declaration_Plymouth-College-of-Art-1.pdf
Social Impact Statements:
Social Impact Statements
The Social Enterprise 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 are asked to respond to a set of social impact questions, which are designed to help them think about the social impact they create, and to articulate this clearly and succinctly.
Updated March 2018
1) What social differences and changes have you aimed to create (or supported)?
Plymouth College of Art seeks to achieve social impact on two levels; organisationally and individually. This means that not only do we support our own students to achieve individual transformation but we also innovate as an organisation to effect social impact within our wider community.
Our social Impact aims include:
We seek to instil our students with a level of confidence and social justice that means they feel they have agency to make positive change and impact within their chosen field and communities. A focus on social practice in particular means that our students have opportunity to experience the impact their work as artists can have on people, communities and society more widely. Through these experiences our students view themselves as change makers, with the skills and desire to effect positive change.
We believe firmly in the power of place based regeneration and that our responsibilities for social engagement and impact stretch far beyond the walls of our building. As such we take our role as a small, specialist anchor institution seriously and seek partnerships and projects that support our wider community through place making initiatives.
A core strand of our creative arts ethos is about broadening horizons for our community. This is both for our full-time students and the wider community for which we create national and international opportunities. This exposes individuals to inspirational people, places and ideas that would not otherwise be accessible to them and helps to build ambition, confidence and societal engagement.
2) What actions have you taken to address the above social aims?
- MA Creative Education – Making Learning – In September 2017 we launched a new and innovative MA in Creative Education. Building on our years of experience within arts education, this programme was specifically design to explore the ways in which learning is made, both in formal and informal learning environments, and facilitate new models of making learning. This is an exciting manifestation of our ethos of learning through creativity, art and making and enables our student to engage with diverse audiences in diverse settings to create truly transformational outcomes for the partner organisations and the individuals.
- Tate Exchange – In January 2018 we, in partnership with Plymouth School of Creative Arts, delivered a public facing initiative in Tate Exchange, Tate Modern London. This was an ambitious project involving staff and students from across the continuum and created a learning factory within the space. This was in response to the theme of production and allowed staff, students and the public to explore how learning, the value of creative moments and how personalised learning journeys can facilitate truly transformational experiences in contrast to mainstream, consumer education models.
- National Saturday Art and Design Club – We continue to support the NSADC by offering free access to the programme for 20 young people aged 14-16 each year. This provides access for those that would not otherwise be able to engage for a wide range of reasons and provides an inspiring programme of artists masterclasses, making sessions and participation in national exhibitions.
- Makers HQ CIC – In partnership with Millfields Community Economic Development Trust we have established Makers HQ CIC. This is a joint venture social enterprise which seeks to support employment and training opportunities for the local area of Stonehouse and the wider Plymouth city through the provision of fashion and textile manufacturing. This is an innovative approach to community, economic and graduate development which is forecast to achieve national recognition whilst delivering local benefit.
- Made in Plymouth CIC – Working in partnership with RIO, University of Plymouth, PCC and Plymouth Culture we have established a CIC which celebrates and supports local production. In the first instance this is through two strands of activity; a Plymouth product range and an annual light festival. Both strands support local artists and makers to realise their ideas and access distribution channels to show or sell through.
3) What has changed and what benefits have been realised as a result of your actions?
Our students have benefited from being directly involved in these innovative projects. Some have developed new works as a result of the opportunities and others have been able to showcase and experiment within new settings, such as Tate Exchange. This engagement and exposure is inspiring for our students and encourages them to push their own boundaries and challenge societal norms. This enables our students to forge their own unique path, feeling empowered to make and support positive change.
We are helping students to reach their full potential academically and personally through these cultural diverse, nationally and internationally connected projects. As a result, we have seen students winning awards, engaging with new audiences, taking up volunteering opportunities, progressing to further study and representing the arts on various local, regional and national forums.
The access opportunities we create via the Saturday arts programmes are invaluable. We know that we are giving young people an opportunity they would not otherwise be able to access and that as a result confidence levels soar as well as their creative abilities. This in turn has a positive impact on relationships with peers and their wider academic achievements. We see a large proportion of participants progressing onto programmes within the college as a result of this experience having found their passion for learning.
Many of the projects outlined above involve partner organisations which is central to our organisational ethos. We seek to achieve greater impact through partnership which may include leveraging funding, reaching new and greater audiences and sharing best practice for the benefit of all involved. Through partnership we are able to share our specialist skills and give staff and students an opportunity to participate in city wide projects as a means of CPD.
Much of our work is outward facing with the aim of reaching a larger and more diverse audience. Some of this is to support recruitment of students from all backgrounds and to provide equal opportunities for access to the arts. More importantly, our work is about inspiring audiences to join the debate, challenge the norm and find their own path, whatever that may be. We walk the talk by undertaking public facing projects that are a physical manifestation of our values and ethos, namely broadening horizons and empowering individuals through creativity.
4) How do you and other people know your aims are being achieved? Or how will you know?
At a project level we regularly survey participants to understand what they have experienced, the impact it has had and what they will do next as a result. This is true of our Saturday Arts programmes so that we can support the ambitions of each young person.
Large scale projects such as Tate exchange have a research dimension within their own right and as such we employ a range of documentation and evaluation tools such as surveys, interviews, development sessions and digital tracking. We undertake this both pre and post event to understand how expectations have been met or exceeded and what actions participants will take forward as a direct result of their engagement.
Our annual staff survey is another means by which we measure impact. Through this we can determine the level of engagement our staff have with our social enterprise agenda and the ways in which they are actively creating opportunities for students to engage. Importantly we get a measure of the staff perception of the college in terms of its relationship to the city and what they as staff are most proud of.
We are currently exploring the approach we would take to the development of an annual social impact report. This needs to be a meaningful exercise and document, focused on more than just KPIs so we are researching the options available to us by attending training courses and engaging external experts.
The below questions are not mandatory, but Mark holders are encouraged to answer them where possible, to provide a fuller account of their social outcomes and the social value they create.
5) How many people have benefitted from your actions?
It’s difficult to provide a definitive number of beneficiaries given the vast number of services, courses and projects we offer. However, in relation to the specific activities outline above we can identify some headline outcomes:
- Approx 17 young people progression from our Saturday Arts programme into our pre-degree programmes each year
- Over 800 adults participate in our evening class provision as a means of engaging or reengaging with art
- Approx 35% of evening class participants go onto further study
- Upwards of 75 staff and students from across the continuum were involved in Tate Exchange
- 1200 people visited our Tate Exchange initiative in London
- Over 8,000 people attended the illuminate light festival at the Royal William Yard
- Our student progression into employment has increased from 85% in 2016 to 91% in 2017 (DLHE outcomes)
- Makers HQ has leveraged £280,000 into the city to support economic and employment outcomes for Stonehouse
6) What examples can you provide of a typical service user experience, that helps illustrate the benefits they have experienced as a result of your actions?
Case Study – Tate Exchange
Tate Exchange was presented as an open call opportunity to staff and students at Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth School of Creative Arts. Staff and students were invited to respond to an artist’s brief and a number of briefing sessions were held to help communicate the opportunity and develop ideas.
Following submission and panel review the selected participants were supported to develop their ideas through a series of developmental workshops focusing on collaboration, visitor experience and evaluation. The participants were helped to develop a carefully curated environment that would encourage maximum public engagement. During this process the participants met with the Tate Exchange lead artist Clare Twomey to further push their boundaries and consider the new context in which they were operating.
When open the participants welcomed over 1000 members of the public through the space. This was, for many, a new experience in terms of process, location and audience. This had wide ranging positive implications for the participants but two students in particular benefited from the experience. One BA Fine Art student took up the opportunity to deliver an informal Tate Talk to the public within the main gallery. This was transformational, building confidence in the student and really encouraging her to consider her future course. Since Tate this student has been invited on to a public art commissioning group within the city as the young persons representative. Another young student from PSCA made such an impact with her work on Marine Plastics whilst in Tate Exchange that it was discussed at the wider Tate staff council. This young person has influenced the discussion at a national level through powerful, purposeful debate.
7) What additional social benefits have you been able to deliver within your core services that distinguish you from other “for shareholder profit” providers?
The college continues to invest in the Careers and Enterprise Team and Project Development Team despite not being a mandatory requirement. This constitutes a significant financial investment from the college but is considered essential for the enhancement of the student offer. These teams provide access to advice and external opportunities that enable students to gain internships, participate in European exchange projects and develop business proposals. This allows us to go beyond simply delivering curriculum and instead builds unique opportunities based on the interests and aspirations of individual students.
This provision fits our college ethos, namely that the act of learning should not be separate from the act of living, by building more rounded individuals through our holistic approach to student development.
8) What other social benefits have you contributed that go beyond your core delivery activities (ones that are completely unrelated to your main services)?
Makers HQ CIC is an innovative joint venture that we have contributed considerable time and expertise towards. This has already created employment opportunities and will continue to do so for the local community. We have been able to leverage funding for the project to the sum of £280,000 which will mean that the project can also offer an extensive training provision for young people and the community.
As a CIC all profits will be reinvested in the organisation to extend the benefits to the community and stakeholders. All initial activity for the development of the project has been offered by the college as in-kind unfunded support in addition to our day-to-day work.
9) What social and environmental benefits have you created from internal operational policies and actions?
The college has an ongoing objective to reduce our carbon footprint and encourage staff and students to take responsibility for doing the same. Our Green Impact week, driven by the Student Union, delivers a range of activities for staff and students to learn about carbon emissions and ways in which they can have a positive impact. One small step towards this is the purchase of an electric van to replace an aging college vehicle.
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