New surroundings for fine art students at the University of Chichester

Fine art students at the University of Chichester will be in new premises for their graduate show this year.

Tim Sandys-Renton
Tim Sandys-Renton

Following the December-March lockdown, the department has moved from Chichester to the Bognor Regis campus, into the St Michaels building and also – for sculpture and 3D work – into the brand new multi-million-pound Tech Park.

Set-up for this year’s show is from May 25-June 5, followed by assessment until the preview evening on Thursday, June 10. The exhibition then opens to the public from Friday, June 11 to Thursday, June 17 (11am-6pm during the week, 11am-4pm at weekends).

Tim Sandys-Renton, senior lecturer in fine art sculpture, is confident the move is going to work well for the whole department.

“The university are turning our old artOne (art department) building (in Chichester) into a base for nursing.

“They needed to have a base for the nursing degree and they needed to have it next to St Richard’s, and even though we were upset, it is hard to get upset with the idea of training nurses.

“The building was purpose-built for us, but the university have decided that they needed it for a base for the nursing. The nursing degree is starting in September, and they had to get that going.

“When it got to Christmas and it was clear that there was going to be a period where we were going to be off campus, they thought that this would be a good time to get the Bognor campus ready for us when everyone gets back.

“Practical courses were able to come back in March and we moved in in mid-March, into a lovely building called St Michaels, one of the buildings in that nice arc opposite Hotham Park. We have a section of that.

“It has been a bit of a contraction in terms of space, but it will work well because our numbers had been gradually reducing.

“We have had significantly fewer numbers than we had ten years ago.

“I would guess it is a lot to do with the student fees. That’s just an informal obser-vation, but since the fees went up to £9,000 applications have been markedly down. We were slightly swimming around in the artOne building. The space is a bit smaller now but arguably it equates more with the space the students had when there were more of them ten to 15 years ago.”

Sculpture and 3D work move into the big new engineering block 200 metres away: “There was a period of negotiation with the engineers, but I think it will work well. There is a real sense that we can take advantage of the opportunities there for the digital age. There is a real sense that our future there is rosy.”

As for the students: “With Covid, there are still students that are feeling very vulnerable.

“The students have been away for the bulk of the semester, and there are quite a few who really got into the swing of working in their own kitchens or wherever and are continuing to work there because they do feel vulnerable. And that is fine. But there are others that are taking full advantage and are enjoying the new space.”

For the moment it is still a case of settling in: “You know that thing where you have just moved house and everywhere there are boxes and you are thinking ‘Now where have I put the keys?’ It is a bit like at the moment. It is still a bit like living out of a suitcase!”