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Work by Suzanne Anthony Image courtesy of Suzanne Anthony
Studying Fine Art at ECA gave Suzanne the opportunity to push her practice, testing ideas and ultimately allowing her confidence to grow. 

Since leaving ECA Suzanne has won the Royal Scottish Academy’s Pandemic Award and subsequent exhibition (2021) and has continued her fine art practice through successfully securing commissions, residencies and funding, including a solo exhibition in Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop's Hawthornvale Space earlier this year. 

Why I chose to study Fine Art - MA

I wanted to study at ECA because it puts a real emphasis on theoretical understanding, historical context and critical thinking, as well as the physical considerations of making and creative exploration. The studios are such exciting spaces, full of creative energy and the opportunity to learn, to make a mess, and to collaborate. I remember watching a video of reviews taking place in the Sculpture Court and thinking that is what I want to be a part of. There is a keen importance placed on studio reviews and group discussions at ECA, which is vital not only for building a language around contemporary art and improving analytical skills, but also for creating a strong sense of community and camaraderie. The art college is also part of the University of Edinburgh which gives access to further resources, outside courses and a wider university community. It also doesn’t hurt that the college building itself is stunning and is situated in the heart of Edinburgh overlooking the castle!

My time at ECA

I studied Fine Art (MA) which combines the practical production and development of art and its historical and theoretical context perfectly. In Sculpture, I was given the opportunity to learn new practical skills and develop a real criticality to my work through skill-based and conceptual briefs and projects. We had regular discussions with tutors, presented our work to the group in project spaces, and had multiple opportunities to exhibit giving us room to test our ideas, to take creative risks, and grow as artists. In our final year, we created our degree show, for which I built three monumental sculptures out of discarded and unwanted materials sourced from the streets, skips and scrapyards of Edinburgh. It was incredible to create a body of work that brought together all the varying interests and skills I had learnt along the way.

In History of Art, I was not only given a solid foundational knowledge of art and theory, but was able to explore topics that intersected with my practice in a very different way; learning about the politics, the economics, and the socio-political landscape of contemporary art, enabling me to investigate where exactly my work was situated within it. For one of my History of Art courses, I was also able to undertake an internship at Rhubaba, an artist run gallery and studios in Leith, where I joined the committee in organising the upcoming programme, applying for funding, and developing and installing an exhibition. I have found this industry experience to be extremely useful since graduating. I also worked on Canvas, the student-led art journal, and volunteered at the Talbot Rice Gallery where I was able to meet other creatives across the university and develop skills beyond my courses.

"I was given the opportunity to learn new practical skills and develop a real criticality to my work through skill-based and conceptual briefs and projects."

Suzanne Anthony

Fine Art - MA alumna

My experiences since graduating

Whilst I always wanted to work in the arts, I didn’t think I would ever be able to be an artist, but since graduating from ECA I have been lucky enough to have had a number of commissions, residencies and funding. Our degree show gave me the opportunity to show at New Contemporaries at the Royal Scottish Academy with other Scottish art school graduates which gave me a real sense of drive and purpose upon leaving. One of the key things that helped prepare me for this was actually our written work and presentations which pushed me to clearly define my practice and equip me for the real world in terms of applications and bids for which I am very grateful. More than anything though, I had fantastic tutors, who are all artists themselves, so the conversations we had during my time at ECA and the advice that they have given me has been truly invaluable.

My biggest achievement since leaving ECA has been winning the Royal Scottish Academy’s Pandemic Award and subsequent exhibition (2021). This commission gave me the opportunity to push my practice into new creative territories at a particularly challenging time. I developed and produced the work at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, where I not only had access to the most astonishing facilities and studio spaces, but got to meet some incredible artists and technicians. I was also extremely fortunate in having a solo exhibition in their Hawthornvale Space earlier this year.

My advice to new and current students

The best piece of advice that I can give to someone starting in September would be to take creative risks and do not be afraid of failing – that is where you will learn and grow the most, and discover the strongest parts of your practice. For those graduating this year, please do not worry if you don’t have a clear plan of what to do after ECA. My peers and I went on to do things that we didn’t even know existed whilst in final year - you simply cannot plan these things, just be curious and open to those things that might interest you!

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