The only career barrier is you

Gina Fairley

At the National Art School your skill level is not the barrier. With courses offered from short intensives to a doctorate level, NAS is serious about getting you started.
The only career barrier is you

National Art School Studios Photo: Peter Morgan

Having reservations about taking that next step to bolster your creativity or to set off on the career path as a professional artist? Then you’re in the same boat as the many people who are considering a visual arts degree or course next year. 

Any academic study offers challenges, but the National Art School (NAS) in Sydney makes it easy for you with a range of courses aligned with your passion, career drive and availability.

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There is no barrier to your dream or career ambitions; the only challenge is choosing which course to take.  

The most asked question

Simon Cooper, Head of Studies at NAS, said the most commonly asked question is, ‘What job will you get at the end of this?’

‘While it might only be 10% that “make it big” as an artist, our fundamental contract with every student is to treat them with respect; they have every right to imagine whatever they want and we will support them in that pursuit, whether they are joining us for a short course or a doctorate degree.’

Earlier this year, NAS was rated number one in Australia for overall educational experience, trumping Australia’s other art schools and blue chip Universities.

Cooper said that the school has been expanding its vision in recent years, with 2018 marking the first year a Doctor of Fine Art (DFA) has been offered.

‘For us, it is a really important milestone and a statement of the school’s seriousness and ambition,’ said Cooper.

Offered as a Professional Doctorate, rather than a PhD, Cooper explained that it is awarded on the back of knowledge and professional activity, rather than pure research. The three-year full time or six-year part time degree is a practice-based doctorate, whereupon graduates acquire an in-depth understanding of the technical and theoretical skills expected of a professional practitioner in the visual arts.

It joins NAS’s signature programs: a three-year Bachelor of Fine Art and a two-year full time Master of Fine Art degree, both of which are designed as a holistic approach to art education that imparts the skills, knowledge and creative independence required to sustain a career as an artist.

Find out how to apply

The MFA involves a blend of coursework, individual research and studio practice, with specialisations offered in Ceramics, Drawing, Painting, Photomedia, Printmaking and Sculpture.

One of the key factors to studying with NAS is that the classes are kept small and are led by professional practicing artists, a boon when it comes to studio-based education.

‘In that environment the advice and support of experienced teachers is invaluable, but also that peer studio environment where you riff off other people, and it takes you on a journey beyond the atomised educational experience,’ said Cooper.

He added: ‘It’s not always about dusty tradition and skills. A lot of our students take those traditional skills learnt and apply them in a contemporary expression. A good example is alumnae Juz Kitzon, who works largely in China today and takes an extraordinary approach to ceramics as contemporary installation.’

Kitzon’s class is just one of many Short Courses that are offered across the year at NAS, with the next enrolment in January 2018.

In 2017 NAS had its biggest year ever for short term enrolments. Cooper added: ‘Even a short course can be challenging - nothing worth doing is that easy.’

Want to get started? Check out NAS short courses on offer in 2018.

Still unsure? Then consider the company you would join. The recent exhibition Grounded: Contemporary Australian Art featured the work of past NAS students and demonstrated the breath and standard of the school: Mitch Cairns, Karla Dickens, Newell Harry, Jumaadi, James Nguyen, Addison Marshall, Joan Ross and Justine Varga.

Steven Alderton, NAS Director and CEO said: ‘We are particularly thrilled for Mitch Cairns, this year’s winner of The Archibald Prize and Joan Ross, winner of the Sulman Prize currently on show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and, of course, Justine Varga, recent recipient of the Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraiture and Jumaadi, named winner of the Mosman Art Prize.’

Cooper concluded: ‘Ultimately, the proof in the pudding. It is about what we produce and what we aim to produce is artists - that is the culture here at NAS.’ 

The National Art School is located in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.