First PhD in Studio Art to be awarded at Burren College of Art Conferring

Pictured is the Burren College of Art
Apr 19 2012 Posted: 16:35 IST

The Burren College of Art today (Wednesday, 18 April) reached a milestone in its development with the first conferring of a PhD in Studio Art by NUI Galway.  The recipient, Eileen Hutton, produced a body of work entitled ‘Being In the Land: A Sculptural Investigation of Ecology’ comprised of an exhibition of art work, supported by written material critically reviewing the field of enquiry and the process of the research project.

The awarding of the first PhD in Studio Art at Burren College of Art is not only a significant achievement for the recipient Eileen Hutton, but also for the college itself.  The location of the college has been integral to the focus of Eileen’s work, investigating reciprocal relationships between artists and the natural environment.  Her sculptural collaborations with the blue tits and honeybees in the Burren has not only strengthened their natural habitats but has provided valuable insight into the positive ways environmental art can impact on its surroundings. 

President of the Burren College of Art, Mary Hawkes Greene said: “We are delighted that the first PhD studies conducted at the College have focused so specifically and benefitted immeasurably from the Burren itself, the very reason for the college’s existence.  The conferring of this award by the NUI Galway, underlines the academic rigour pursued at the College and further strengthens the important ties between these two academic institutions.”

The PhD in Studio Art is one example of the so-called “practice-based” doctorates that began to emerge in art schools and university art departments twenty years ago.  They began in the UK, where Burren College of Art’s Dean was a pioneer.  All PhD projects lead to the development of new knowledge or a significant contribution to understanding in a particular subject, resulting from a process of enquiry, and in the case of Art this is achieved through studio-based creative process. 

The significance of these PhDs for the larger world of higher education is that they require artists to develop an explicit rationale for their creativity and thereby dispel the mystique that often surrounds creative process. This clarity about creativity can enable the transfer of knowledge from art to PhD students in other disciplines.  Burren College of Art now provides courses in “creative difference” to PhD students at NUI Galway in disciplines ranging from Biochemistry to Law and Mathematics, as well as to the Executive MBA of the University. 

At Burren College of Art PhDs are examined on the basis of the exhibition of a body of art work, supported by written material critically reviewing the field of enquiry and the process of the research project. In this respect the Burren PhD differs from many UK PhDs in prioritising the art over the text, a model that is fast gaining ground acrossEurope.

Also receiving their degrees from NUI Galway in today’s ceremony were Master of Fine Art students Angelalynn Dunlop, Arianna Garcia Fialdini and Haynes Goodsell, while Andrew Nielsen receives his Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art.


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