Reflecting on an arts degree 30 years on

12 November 2019

Cam McCracken, Director of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, returned to his arts school recently – University of Canterbury’s Ilam School of Fine Arts - as a judge for SELECT 19, and reflected on how a Bachelor of Fine Arts shaped his career.

  • Min-Young Her

    Min-Young Her's work caught the attention of SELECT judge Cam McCracken, Director of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, and will now join the UC Art Collection.

Arts school doesn’t simply teach students how to paint or arrange an installation – there are multiple critical skills to be developed before budding artists reveal their work and they are the very skills that are widely predicted to be in demand in the future.

Cam McCracken, Director of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, returned to his arts school recently – University of Canterbury’s Ilam School of Arts - as a judge for SELECT 19, and reflected on how a Bachelor of Fine Arts shaped his career.

“Increasingly, the ability to be creative,

critical and resilient are now prerequisites

for a successful working life”

“Being a graduate of this Art School has been hugely important to me. It was here that I really learned how to think critically and confidently. I learned how to problem solve, how to work quickly and efficiently through ideas and then how to champion those ideas persuasively. I developed these skills, work values and attitudes during my four years at Ilam and these have served me very well in my working life,” he says.

The academic staff expected high standards, but fellow students could be even harder to please. “We placed even higher expectations on each other that our work would be as good as it could be and that it would be well resolved, because it would be scrutinised by our peers with considerable rigour.” 

Some 30 years later, McCraken is Director of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Toitū Otago Settlers Museum and the Dunedin Chinese Garden.

A Fine Arts qualification is even more relevant today. “Increasingly the ability to be creative, critical and resilient are now prerequisite for a successful working life and an art school education will equip those who have it with the ability to positively navigate the future with confidence,” he says.

McCraken was most impressed with the work of students Liam Krijgsman, Christian Lamont and Min-Young Her who he chose as the SELECT 19 winners. Their work now joins the UC collection, one of the largest in the country at some 5,000 works.

The studios are now full of fascinating, curated work and open to the public until Thursday 14 November.

10am – 4pm, Monday - Wednesday 11 – 13 November
10am – 1pm, Thursday 14 November

Free car parking is available in the Clyde car park (only) off Arts Rd.

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