Well, look no further because we’ve got you covered.
We got to chat with Alexa, a graduate from Visual Arts at ANU, who told us everything we wanted to know about the highs and lows, the tips and tricks and the pros and cons of studying her degree.
Let’s get right into it!
Why should you study a Visual Arts degree at ANU?
Alexa, a graduate from the Bachelor of Visual Arts, gave us the rundown of the kinds of people who should consider the Visual Arts program at ANU.
A Bachelor of Visual Arts at ANU is a degree offered to undergraduate students who are passionate, driven and ambitious creatives wanting to acquire all the skills needed for a position in the creative industries and beyond.
As a student in ANU’s Visual Arts program, you’ll develop your understanding of the creative, conceptual and theoretical features used in a wide scope of artistic practices. You’ll learn all about the historic, cultural, structural and symbolic significance of art so that you’ll be able to create and analyse artworks.
Tailoring the Degree to Your Interests
A great component of the Bachelor of Visual Arts is that it’s a degree that can be personalised and tailored to your own interests. This way you can design your degree to best suit your talent, style and aspirations.
In fact, alongside the immersive experience of experimenting with a range of artistic styles, you’ll also be required to select a discipline that you plan on majoring in. These options include:
- Animation and video
- Hybrid art practice
- Jewellery and object
- Print media and drawing
- Sculpture and spatial practice
As a graduate from this degree, you can be confident that as long as you’ve put in the work, you’ll have developed some highly sought after skills that will support you in securing your dream job!
Top 3 Pros of a Visual Arts degree
#1: The balance between theory and practice
A great feature of ANU’s Bachelor of Visual Arts, according to Alexa, is their balance between teaching theoretical and practical artistic components.
Alexa explained, “ANU, in my opinion, is a university that is more based on research so doing a Visual Arts degree really helps you be more challenged conceptually and do things that are outside your comfort zone.”
ANU values artistic theory so while you’ll get plenty of opportunities to hone in on your preferred craft, you can also expect to develop an extensive understanding of artistic frameworks, structural choices and history.
“From the practical courses that you do in a workshop and the art history courses that encourage students to respond critically to the issues that occur in our society, we do a lot of innovative thinking and experiments with materials as a response,” Alexa added.
#2: Passionate teaching staff
Another valuable component of the Bachelor of Visual Arts program is the committed, experienced and supportive staff.
As a student in visual arts at ANU, you’ll be positioned within the School of Art and Design which is a part of ANU’s College of Art and Social Sciences. Alexa told us that the accomplished staff at ANU are inspiring and motivating to chat to.
“A lot of the staff at the School of Art & Design are renowned practising artists and researchers who lead hands-on courses, so they would have the industry knowledge and skills that would benefit us. They are basically professionals in what they are doing!” Alexa said.
Alexa also mentioned how honest and upfront the staff are which is essential for handling feedback in the art world.
She explained, “In my experience, they were supportive because they help you get to know the industry and assist you with constructive feedback on the projects that you are working on. They are brutally honest but that made me challenge myself to do things that I never thought I would do in art, which I am super grateful for. I think you need that in the arts industry.”
#3: Small arts community
The final pro that Alexa shared with us was the great environment and culture that is offered to Visual Arts students at ANU.
“The arts community in Canberra is quite small so a lot of artists in Canberra know each other, which makes it easy to build connections with other artists. It’s nice to be with a group of people that are like-minded and have similar experiences as you because you are studying the same degree. This can lead to collaborations on projects and other opportunities to work with them in the future,” Alexa said.
So, not only will you foster some long-term friendships with the other Visual Arts students in your cohort but you’ll also be encouraged and able to enhance your professional network. You’ll get plenty of valuable opportunities to check out galleries, chat with artists and figure out what you’d like to do in the future.
“There are a lot of local arts organisations and galleries around Canberra, especially surrounding ANU, that you could explore and be part of through their memberships and workshops. Being part of those organisations can help you bring exposure to your art practice as well. It helps a lot in this degree if you need some research to inspire your own work or just to see what the Canberra art scene has to offer,” Alexa said.
Top 3 Cons of a Visual Arts degree
#1: Not much flexibility
One of the not-so-great things about studying a Bachelor of Visual Arts at ANU, according to Alexa, is the prescriptive format of the degree. Although since Alexa has already graduated, she admits that this structure may have changed a bit since then.
“When I started doing this degree, you had to do majors that were specific to your workshop, your art theory and history courses, and there were a few spaces to do electives — essentially the courses were pre-planned,” Alexa said.
She also noted that alongside this somewhat rigid structure, some classes tend to fill up extremely quickly so a lot of the time it can be stressful to enrol in the classes you need.
“There is limited enrolment capacity to classes so students have to enrol as early as they can, but even if they get in early, they get full so fast. This affects students because if the course capacity is full and it’s a requirement for the degree, it pushes back on when they can graduate,” Alexa said.
#2: Limited career prospects
Another concern that generally impacts a lot of Arts students is the idea that there will not be many jobs at the end of it. Of course you could always refine your craft and become a practicing artist, but even then, it can be difficult to sell, find galleries and suit your audience.
“There were not many options for career choices when you graduate university besides being an artist. It is very hard to find a job that is related to the visual arts, especially in a small city like Canberra. There weren’t many career opportunities that were advertised for students studying the degree,” Alexa shared.
She recommended a Professional Practices course for Visual Arts students at ANU to help students with future employability in a sector that is seemingly harder and harder to break into.
“There was a Professional Practices course that taught you how to be an artist like making an artist’s CV, writing artist statements etc. Once you do that course, then you can apply for an internship. This wasn’t a mandatory course to do for all art students, but I think it should be because it would benefit those who want a career in art,” Alexa said.
#3: Extra costs
“You have to buy your own materials and pay for facilities, which can be very expensive as a lot of the Visual Arts courses are very practical. The workshops usually have a workshop fee so students are able to use the equipment, tools and studios after class hours as well,” Alexa said.
According to Alexa, it may be a relatively pricey degree with the cost of extra material on top of the recent increase in humanities and arts courses in Australia. Alexa explained the workshop fee a little more:
“Though this fee was optional, it is beneficial because Visual Arts courses take a lot of time so you would need those extra hours after class to work on your projects. However, in my honest opinion, this is what a lot of artists do so I think this helps when you are graduated from university and still making artworks after your degree.”
Alexa told us that she had no regrets about choosing this degree. So, if it’s something you’re considering and you’re looking for a sign, this might just be it.
Despite the cons we mentioned above, Alexa is totally happy with her choice.
Although it’s good to keep in mind that everyone has different experiences at uni. What worked for Alexa may not work for you!
What do you wish you had known before starting the degree?
#1: Time commitment
“The main thing that I wish I had known before starting my degree is that it is full-on and takes a lot of your time, but if you are really passionate about it then it’ll be worth it,” Alexa said.
As a Bachelor of Visual Arts student at ANU, you’ll undergo your studies by attending a lecture, tutorial and practical class for each of the subjects that you take — you’ll be on campus for at least 20 hours a week. Alexa noted that you’ll also need a lot of time to work on assessments and artworks.
She explained, “There were times that I had to stay after class to do my projects, or even on days when I didn’t have class but as I said before, all the hard work was worth it in the end. You can tell how passionate, hard working and motivated you are by the works that you make.”
#2: Be aware of the extra costs
As Alexa mentioned in the cons section, it can be a bit of a shock when you find out about all the extra costs that you have to cover.
“I wished that I would’ve known how expensive art supplies can be and the fact that I needed to pay extra costs for my own materials. It was a really big shift from materials already being provided when you did an art subject in high school, then all of the sudden you need to buy everything yourself,” she explained.
What makes this degree different from the ones offered at other universities?
Alexa told us that a distinct characteristic of ANU that she was really pleased with was its close proximity to other art institutions.
“The ANU School of Art and Design is located in a white art deco building in the centre of Canberra, which is near Australia’s national galleries and museums such as the National Gallery of Australia. This was beneficial for a Visual Arts degree because you have access to these institutions to learn about the art,” she explained.
Alexa also told us that the Visual Arts course offered at ANU just really suited her — its content, culture and location all worked really well for what she was after. Since she lives in Canberra, Alexa told us that she didn’t have to consider accommodation like a lot of other ANU students.
What inspired you to choose this degree?
Alexa told us that she didn’t have a future career in mind when she started studying at ANU. She knew that she was creative and wanted to be challenged at uni so it was all about finding something that suited her.
“I chose this degree because I wanted to challenge myself conceptually. I was always very artistic growing up and I had been doing visual arts courses in high school that I really enjoyed,” she expressed.
She added, “However, I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do as a future career so I ultimately decided to go study what I’m passionate about and hopefully I can build a career from there.”
It can be really tricky picking a degree that isn’t explicitly career-focused because sometimes the people around you will encourage you to choose a safer, more stable course. But just like Alexa, if you choose something that you’re passionate about, not only will you be more likely to enjoy it but you still might find a career that aligns with your interests perfectly!
What are the possible career paths?
You’ve got quite a few options! As long as you’re passionate about the discipline that you decide to focus on, you’ll be set.
However it is good to keep in mind what Alexa said about limited career prospects unless you want to be a practicing artist. This just means that it may be a little trickier to find that dream job — but definitely not impossible!
With some further study you could also look into becoming a teacher to teach art to primary or high school students. You could also work as a film editor, a photographer or a director!
There truly are quite a lot of options, it’s just about finding the right one for you. You’ve got this!
Gemma Billington is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and an undergraduate student at the University of Technology Sydney. While studying Journalism and Social and Political Sciences, Gemma enjoys spending her time at the gym or reading about Britain’s medieval monarchy – ideally not at the same time. She currently creates and administers social media posts for Central News and writes for the student publication, The Comma. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to study a Masters of Medieval History and is very excited about the prospect!