In the past, South Africa’s creative education and artistic career prospects have been mainly accessible to people of privilege. The majority of citizens blame the government, while others blame the ‘lack of ambition’ demonstrated by youth. But, rather than look to the past we pose questions for today and tomorrow:
What are we doing – the government, communities and parents – to encourage alternative fields of study for youth and careers in the creative industries?
What are we doing collectively to support youth in South Africa to reach their maximum potential and have the opportunity to dream big?
Lalela Project high school students paint a mural Inyanda Youth Network student art exhibition
A handful of institutions offer tertiary education in the visual and graphic arts fields, including the Campus of Performing Arts in Johannesburg, the University of Pretoria Department of Visual Arts and the Cape Town Creative Academy, among others.
Despite these tertiary opportunities, there isn’t much in the way of arts opportunities for public high school students. NGOs like Lalela Project and Inyanda Youth Network do great work, previously featured on our blog. Cape Town Creative Academy, a four-year art college that originated in Pretoria and is based in Cape Town’s burgeoning creative district, Woodstock, is another institution that recently launched an exciting programme to recognise high school students talented in the visual arts.
Cape Town Creative Academy (CTCA) offers progressive trans-disciplinary tertiary arts education in design, audio-visual and interdisciplinary arts with a business and an entrepreneurship component. The mission of CTCA is to provide unique courses and degrees that develop and enhance students to be multi-skilled in the arts and prepare for a profession in their chosen field.
In 2013, CTCA launched the Young Creatives Awards. The CTCA team identified the need to recognise high school students who excel in the arts. The only annual, provincial art and design competition open to all Grade 11 and 12 learners in the Western Cape, CTCA rewards artistic achievement with academic bursaries, with the aim to elevate the perception of the value of art and design as subjects in high schools.
As an internal initiative, the Young Creatives Awards are planned in-house and the awards team visits high schools across the province to identify extraordinary students. Gustav Vermeulen, Head of Visual Arts and Illustration at CTCA says, “Students are specifically chosen throughout the Western Cape. We pick up [student] artworks at schools and [set up] main drop-off schools for people who can’t send their artwork to studios, because it is costly to use couriers.”
Adjudicators for the ceremony are artists working in the creative industries, for instance last year the adjudication process was chaired by renowned visual artist Maja Marx. With the support of a panel of local creative icons, Maja judged the 2013 Young Creatives Awards shortly after exhibiting her own work at the Venice Biennale. The high quality of student work from around the Western Cape meant that the judges had their work cut out for them!
Young Creatives Awards winners receive academic bursaries as prizes, to support them in their quest to continue studying in their chosen field and developing as artists and designers. Last year, the awarded bursaries amounted to R100 000, with the overall winner receiving R50 000 and two runner ups receiving R25 000 each. Vermeulen adds, “We don’t have any sponsors for the Young Creatives Awards; it is an in-house initiative. The idea is not to be a commercial project, but a project that recognizes potential and motivates students to carry on with their talent.”
Last year’s Young Creatives Awards Exhibition took place at the CTCA building in the Old Biscuit Mill, and students did exceptionally well. “The overall winner from our first Young Creatives Awards, Carla Kleinsmit, had remarkable ideas and it showed that she took quite a lot of initiative to work with much of materials for her work,” sayd Vermeulen.
Vermeulen adds, “It takes quite an initiative for parents to support their children, more especially when they are not informed about art. Now and again, CTCA invites parents for motivational sessions with professionals from the creative industry to talk to students and parents and help them understand the importance of arts and how one can benefit from a career in the arts.”
Peter Hyslop, an educator at Bishop’s Diocesan College, suggests that numerous awards focus on sports achievements and academic success in the fields of Mathematics and Science, while the value of artistic achievement and creativity has been largely overlooked. “There are so few opportunities for Visual Arts learners to compete and demonstrate excellence. The Cape Town Creative Academy is doing the teaching community a real service by setting this competition up. I know our Visual Arts learners want the opportunity to measure their creative endeavours against their peers from other schools, and learn from the process.”
Cape Town Creative Academy is part of the 2014 World Design Capital Cape Town programme. The academy applied to enter for exhibits and was awarded a grant on the main category ‘Education that Elevates’. Vermeulen says, “We applied to enter the World Design Capital Cape Town with the purpose of getting more exposure for this good initiative [the Young Creatives Awards]. It is the first and the only competition of this nature in the province. This is a competition which helps students to have greater exposure to the arts and we encourage youth to support each other and get inspiration from one another.”
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