Programme: Intermedia - BA (Hons)

Year: 2019

Studying Intermedia - BA (Hons) at ECA equipped Elinor with the skillset to pursue a career in the arts industry amidst a global pandemic.

Now after graduating Elinor is working as a freelance artist and has secured funding from both Cork City Council and the Arts Council Ireland to support her upcoming exhibitions. 

Why I chose to study Intermedia - BA (Hons)

Coming from Ireland, I chose to study at ECA because I wanted to study somewhere that had a good reputation as an art school in a city that felt both exciting and liveable. I have family in Edinburgh and had visited once or twice on family holidays, but I only decided that Edinburgh was the right choice for me when I went to the open day and fell in love with the city and ECA itself.

Compared to the art schools I was considering in Ireland, ECA was bigger but still felt like it maintained a good community atmosphere. I liked that ECA was part of the University of Edinburgh because I was interested in joining the university’s societies and being part of a broader community of students. 

"I am really grateful for the network of friends and colleagues I made during my time at ECA – I am still in contact with lots of people from Edinburgh through social media, and it is really motivating and inspiring to see how their work continues to develop after university."

Elinor O'Donovan, Intermedia - BA (Hons) alumna

My time at ECA

It took me a while to settle into ECA and my work – it was not until the second year of my degree that I really started to enjoy the work I was making. Because of this, I’m glad that my degree was four years long – having an extra year in first year to settle into university, having time to become accustomed to working in a studio where you’re more or less self-directed and having space to get to know yourself and other students and the city made the transition from secondary school to tertiary education much easier.

Once I started to enjoy university and the work I was making more, I got really into the Friday lecture series which were often really fascinating, and the modules I chose (like Popular Art and Contemporary Folk Culture in the third year) started to feed into the work I was making in exciting ways. I also really enjoyed participating in the Art in Schools project in my third year where a group of students, myself included, got to work on a project and exhibition with Primary 4 kids in Dunbar.

A big part of my university experience was joining the student radio station FreshAir in my first year. I had a radio show with FreshAir for four years, and in my final year, I became manager of the station. Being a part of the student radio station was for me one of the most valuable parts of my university experience. Through the student radio, I made heaps of friends and got to participate in some amazing opportunities, with BBC R1 and Forth One for example.

If I could start again, I would make more of an effort to take part in our group trips to London and the Venice Biennale – I regret not taking part in those as they looked like amazing experiences.

My experiences since graduating

When I finished university, I was happy to step back from my art career for a little while. I was excited about working in radio, and I wanted to be able to earn money from something other than art. I stayed in Edinburgh after graduating in 2019, working a few different jobs in the city before moving to Adelaide in Australia in January 2020.

When the pandemic happened in 2020, I ended up moving back to my home city, Cork, in Ireland and I started looking for opportunities within the arts industry. I was lucky enough to be awarded a graduate studio residency with Sample-Studios in Cork, where I have been working since September 2020. Through Sample-Studios, I have secured two upcoming solo exhibitions in Ireland (one in Cork in August 2021, the other in Galway in November 2021). Even though Covid-19 has been awful in many ways, I’m glad that it gave me the impetus to start looking for artist opportunities.

This year has been quite successful for me in terms of my career– I began the year with a commissioned show of new prints on billboards around Cork City, as part of a collaboration with a local design agency Notes to Cork. I also received three rounds of funding this year, from Cork City Council and Arts Council Ireland, to support me in my upcoming exhibitions and to pay me for my time in the studio over the next 6 to 9 months.

ECA has prepared me for working as an artist as I am equipped with the skills to work in the studio independently. From balancing my studies with student radio commitments, I believe I’m now more able to manage my time working as an artist and working in my part-time job in Cork.

I am really grateful for the network of friends and colleagues I made during my time at ECA – I am still in contact with lots of people from Edinburgh through social media, and it is really motivating and inspiring to see how their work continues to develop after university. During university, everyone was really encouraging and supportive of each other and I’m so glad that this has continued after university as well.

My advice to new and current students

My advice to someone entering first year in September is to just dive in and take part in as many things as possible – exhibitions, societies, classes, projects, trips, whatever! Don’t worry too much about making the kind of work you think an art school student should make and focus more on what you enjoy making and the kind of work you would like to see. Oh, and consider joining the student radio station, it is very fun!

My first piece of advice to someone graduating this year would be to not to panic too much about becoming the ‘next big thing’. Apply for the opportunities that come your way, but your career is a marathon and not a sprint. Secondly, only a rare few get to make money from making art so consider having another way of making money so that you can sustain yourself and your practice long-term. Finally, hang on to the friends and people you know from university, and if you like somebody’s work always, always tell them!

Are you interested in studying Intermedia - BA (Hons) at Edinburgh College of Art?

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