I’m just starting my third week as Principal of ECA and I’m already enthralled with the place. I first visited the College about ten years ago as the External Examiner for the MA Fine Art programme, which was then run between ECA and the University. My connections to Scotland, Edinburgh and the University go back much further though. I was born in Spain, as my name suggests, but my maternal grandfather was from Aberdeen. My paternal grandfather, who was from Extremadura in the south of Spain, won a scholarship to study medicine at Edinburgh in 1934 but was prevented from completing his studies when the Spanish Civil War broke out in the summer of 1936, while he was back on holiday with his family. Throughout my childhood my grandfather would speak always very fondly and with great nostalgia about his time at Edinburgh, showing me photographs and telling me about his first romantic adventures!
I welcomed the new students last week and speculated about whether their reasons for being here were the same as mine, which are that I really cannot think of a better place in which to pursue and fulfil my artistic, academic and institutional ambitions. ECA offers the opportunity to engage in-depth with all its disciplines, which are fantastically resourced through studios and workshops, while also encouraging and indeed insisting upon the value of a broader experience, enriched by all the other Schools and Colleges of the University. The intelligence and creativity that abounds in Edinburgh is really quite extraordinary, and I feel extremely privileged to be here.
In my previous role, as the Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Royal College of Art in London, I was very involved with the Alumni network, both in the UK and Internationally, and I would very much like to have the opportunity to meet as many of you as possible here in Edinburgh and beyond. You are an extremely important group of people, who effectively embody the spirit of ECA. I very much look forward to seeking your counsel over the coming years and to receiving your help and support, financial or otherwise, for the many things that we want to do. These include the consolidation of our campuses and resources, maintaining traditional ways of making and investing in the latest technologies, as well as unleashing the potential of our position as a comprehensive College of creative subjects within one of the world’s leading and most prestigious universities, a truly unique opportunity. We also have important plans to open up ECA more to the wider world and to as diverse a range of staff and students as possible, and to facilitate opportunities for local and international audiences further to engage with what we do.