De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) alumni, students, staff and artists had a chance to connect with each other and network at the launch of ‘DMU Art Network’ at The Gallery in the Vijay Patel Building.
A key issue within the art world is that once students graduate it is difficult to find the time or resources to develop their skills and become a full-time artist.
With help from local galleries, DMU staff and artists both locally and nationally, the aim of the DMU Art Network is to provide support and resources to recently graduated artists so they are able to commit to a career in the art industry.
A key focus of the evening was networking, and the event began with an opportunity to discuss the art exhibition in the gallery. The artwork showcased was created by one of the most influential artists in the UK, Brendan Neiland.
Brendan Neiland has been a keen supporter of the arts at DMU since he was awarded Companion of the University at the summer graduations in 2013 and he has volunteered to help shape the DMU Art Network.
Christian Furr, an artist who graduated in 1989 in Fine Art BA (Hons), said: “This is an incredible show. It’s a 50 year retrospective of Brendan’s career and he’s really kindly supporting this new initiative #DMUforlife which has ultimately been designed to help students.
“So Brendan is kindly licencing his work, and whatever proceeds are raised from the sales of his artwork are going towards helping the students here, particularly when they leave college.”
Ty Watson, Head of Advancement, then gave a welcome speech where he introduced Brendan Neiland, The Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Leicester, Councillor Ross Grant, and Professor Simon Bradbury, PVC Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Humanities (ADH).
Lord Mayor, Councillor Ross Grant said: “I know quite a bit about how positive the benefits are of having this institution in Leicester, because my dad came to the Arts School a very long time ago before it became a polytechnic, and before it became a university.
“A real positive has come from this. I wonder what he would have achieved if this sort of network and these sort of opportunities were around then.”
Professor Bradbury added: “Clearly the work this represents broadly across the university about supporting our students after their graduation is absolutely critical. Brendan is right that the faculty is perfectly set up to have this fantastic space to support you. This is such a fantastic programme that we can expand across other areas.”
DMU alumni, students, staff and artists all noted the importance of the DMU Art Network to ensuring the professional success of our graduates.
Jonjo Elliot, who is Art Culture Project Co-ordinator at DMU, said: “I think it’s important for students to come along and see this and the general public as well to get involved, because a strong creative network is something majorly important to becoming a professional artist. So events like this are perfect for that sort of thing.”
Kevin Holdaway, Chief Technician and Technical Instructor in Fine Art Print Making, who has been here since he started at DMU as a student in 1986, agreed with Jonjo.
He added: “I have been here for over 30 years. Things like this are what we really need and in the last 10 years we’ve had more and more events like this that have come online. It’s nothing but beneficial to the students and the widening participation of the groups around us.”
Jay Chavda, who graduated in the Legal Practice Course in 2018, said: “I’ve come today to try and view what’s on offer. Perhaps meet other like-minded people who are themselves interested in art and who are themselves alumni and are interested in the alumni association and anything to do with this university.”
This was also echoed by Courtney Askey, an alumni who is now an artist. She said: “As an artist I’m here at the networking event today to hopefully meet some people and make connections and do some networking which is very vital in the arts.”
Neisa Mason, who is studying Fine Art BA (Hons) at DMU and is on a placement year in The Gallery, attended the event to gain contacts with people to further his career after university.
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Chloe Rodgers, a second year student in Design Crafts BA (Hons), said: “Yesterday we had a talk here by Brendan and I found it really inspirational how he spoke about his practice and the journey that he has taken from being a student himself.
“I think networking, is so important for students our age, because one day we are going to graduate and we are going to be out in the outside world. To have those connections already made I think is crucial to our practice and developing as makers ourselves.”
Christian Furr explained: “One of the hardest things once you’ve studied, particularly as an artist, is leaving college because sometimes it is a really steep learning curve and it really tests your personal motivations.
“Art is a passion, to keep your passion alive you need motivation and you’ve got to really believe in what you do. So I think this initiative from that perspective is important and I’m here to support that. In theory I like to give back, share my knowledge and my ideas.
“I was really inspired when I actually came to see the Degree Show here at DMU and the variety of invention I saw. Anything I can do to help, students who will go through what I have been through which is this learning curve, I’ll do that.”
Brendan’s message to students is: “For the students here, be honest, be dedicated, believe in yourself and put yourself in the right place at the right time so you have the luck.
“This is so important in your career. It’s offering you the ability to remain in touch, but it’s more than that, some of you will be very successful and you can help people as you’ve been helped.
“There are ways of helping, it can be if you have something to give back by talking to the current students. Everybody benefits from that.”
If you would like to know how you can join the DMU Art Network, please contact us.
Posted on Thursday 14th February 2019