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Swansea College of Art provides insight into Creative Making and the Sustainability Goals in Wales


04.06.2019

A conference organised at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), has provided insights into how the Swansea College of Art is embedding the seven goals of the Welsh Government’s Wellbeing of Future Generation Act (2015) into its teaching, research and innovation. 

The conference is part of a Sustainability Summer School for undergraduate students from St Michael’s College Vermont organised by UWTSD’s Carmarthen Business School which specialises in sustainability practice within rural contexts.

The relationship with St Michael’s College, Vermont was initiated by Dr Jane Davidson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for sustainability and external engagement and former Welsh Government Environment Minister. 

This month, 15 students and two staff members from St Michael’s College visited UWTSD as part of their studies into an aspect of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act (2015) for their project work, which they began studying before travelling to Wales.

During their time at UWTSD they have undertaken field visits and lectures focusing on sustainability, visiting Llansteffan, Big Pit, St Fagans, the Senedd, Tenby, the Preseli Mountains, Xcel Bowl Social Enterprise, the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth and have been involved in academic seminars hosted by Carmarthen Business School and Swansea Art College.

St Michael’s staff members Jeffrey Ayres and Laura Stroup said: “This is the third visit in four years and our goal is to deepen the exchange between St Michael’s and UWTSD around the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act as there are many synergies between Wales and Vermont.  The student’s projects are about the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and each of them has taken different aspects of it for their research.  We’ve had a range of presentations on each of these aspects and have seen all of these in action as we have travelled to different locations in Wales.

Dr Louise Emanuel, Carmarthen Business School, who organised the visit said: “We hope that this is the start of a relationship in which our students can also benefit from exchange programmes with St Michael’s College and have the opportunity to visit Vermont for a sustainable business field visit – we are currently in the process of planning this for next year.

In welcoming the students and their teachers to Swansea Art College, Professor Ian Walsh, Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design said: “The key role of education is to engender knowledge, confidence and passion in our students – this is our big mission.  We have embedded the principles of sustainability and the wellbeing goals into our curriculum, community, campus and culture so that we produce informed, educated and passionate artists and designers who are able to think about the world in which we live and respond to those challenges creatively”. 

Using examples of recent Swansea College of Art graduates who are now making their mark within global companies, Professor Walsh outlined how graduates are applying sustainable design principles to create innovative solutions, including Keira Gwynn, a product design graduate who designed the scallop chair in her final year and who now works for Danish company R82, specialising in assistive products for disabled children and adults and Elliot Hawkins, an automotive design graduate who designed the UK’s first driverless Pod for RDM Group where he is the Chief Designer of autonomous vehicles.

 

During the conference staff within Swansea College of Art presented on each of the seven Wellbeing Goals and described how they have been embedded in their teaching and research.

  1. A prosperous Wales was presented by Shelley Doolan, Assistive Technologies Innovation Centre Manager, who spoke about The Arts and Humanities Entrepreneurship Hubs (AHEH) project which aims to improve the long-term prospects of Arts and Humanities students by equipping them with the tools and resources to apply their talents to sustain a future doing what they love.
  2. A resilient Wales was the topic covered by Chris Holtom, Creative Industries Research and Innovation Centre, who focussed on the EU-funded Catalyst project between Ireland and Wales helping companies in the life sciences and food and drink sectors to become more sustainable by, for example, tackling food waste or sustainability in packaging.
  3. A healthier Wales was Associate Professor Dr Ross Head’s theme who spoke about wellbeing in children and families through the life-changing work of the Cerebra Innovation Centre in assisting children with neurological conditions to engage in everyday activities.
  4. A more equal Wales was presented by Caroline Thraves: Head of the School of Fine and Media Arts and Chair of the UWTSD Women’s Network who outlined the work of the group as a positive initiative to bring women, and those who identify as female, together, to discuss their shared experiences of working within UWTSD
  5. A Wales of cohesive communities was Dr Amanda Roberts’ topic who provided an introduction to the range of educational and outreach initiatives at Swansea College of Art such as Arts in Action, Arts after Dark, Taster days, Creative Bubble, and Saturday Art School, which aim to encourage participation in the Arts and Higher Education from under-represented groups within the community and local schools.
  6. A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language was the theme covered by Gwenllian Beynon who has been working to embed the Welsh language within Swansea College of Art by encouraging students and staff to use the language in their everyday work and to set the language and heritage of Wales within a wider global context, referencing the University’s long-standing relationship with Canolfan Madog, at Rio Grande University in Ohio.
  7. A Globally Responsible Wales was Dr Pete Spring’s theme, who presented the idea of a ‘local-global’ notion in regard to teaching and assisting students to understand the importance of a real form of ecological intervention or joined up thinking, highlighting a current project that second year Product Design students are working on with the Welsh Rugby Union, Disability Wales and Cerebra to explore the potential for their concepts to become reality and to impact positively on children around the world.

 In addition, Rhian Jones, spoke of the changes in Arts and Education giving examples from the NAWR Arts and Education Network which is one of the central pillars of ‘Creative Learning through the Arts’ – a five year arts and education action plan created and implemented by the Welsh Government and the Arts Council of Wales.

Gwenllian Beynon, Senior Lecturer and Art & Design and Well-being of Future Generations Co-ordinator said: “We are delighted to welcome the Vermont sustainability summer school to Swansea College of Art. We are especially hosting a mini conference on Creative Making and the Sustainability Goals in Wales based on the Well Being of Future Generations Act 2015 with a focus on projects being led by Swansea College of Art showcasing the incredible work undertaken in our current projects and the importance that we give to sustainability issues connected to the wellbeing goals. It’s great that the staff and students from St Michael’s College in Vermont have an interest to explore the practical as well as academic developments in sustainability here at UWTSD and in the wider community. It’s fantastic that there is an international interest in what Wales is doing to protect our planet, the role that the University and Swansea College of Art has in this’.