Investment boost for art industries in Sunderland

The team from The Bunker, who became the first winners of the new Creative Industries category at last year's Portfolio Awards.
The team from The Bunker, who became the first winners of the new Creative Industries category at last year's Portfolio Awards.
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A MAJOR investment in Sunderland’s cultural and creative industries is part of a campus development project at University of Sunderland, which is again sponsoring the Creative Industries award in the Portfolio Business Awards.

Multi-million pound renovations of three of the city’s most iconic buildings will boost provision of art, design, media and performing arts.

Fine Art and Performing Arts will be housed in the historic Priestman Building, which is to undergo a redesign and refurbishment next year.

The new layout will include new studios and a new art gallery.

The distinctive St Mary’s Building on the city centre campus – once home to one of the city’s oldest schools – will accommodate new photography studios.

And the National Glass Centre (NGC) will become the base for more than 50 art and design foundation students, as well for those studying glass and ceramics.

Students and artists from all over the world come to Sunderland to take advantage of the amazing glass production facilities offered by the NGC, which has been part of the university for more than a year.

Meanwhile, a new green screen studio – used in special effects productions – has opened at the David Puttnam Media Centre, on St Peters Campus, alongside the television and radio studios.

More than 2,000 students are studying arts, design and media at Sunderland in some of the finest facilities anywhere in the country.

Graduate employment is at the heart of the university’s provision.

Academics not only teach, but are active in professional practise, which means art students learn from artists who are also linked to the sector, either through their own exhibitions or through their professional networks.

The same is true of journalists, television and radio producers, film-makers, photographers, designers, animators and performers.

The university has music students at the Sage, Gateshead, on community music and popular music and jazz degree programmes, calligraphy students based at Kensington Palace in London at the invitation of the Prince of Wales, students studying design in Hong Kong and is developing new degree programmes which reflect the changing needs of the sector as it responds to advances in convergence and consumer technology.

Leading players from the world of arts, design and media are linked to the university through employment advisory boards, industry accreditation or as visiting lecturers.

ITN is the university’s broadcast news partner, which has resulted in staff and students working with television news professionals in London.

Among the big names who have been working with students in Sunderland are composer and musician Will Todd; advertising executive Patrick Collister; Victoria White, editor of Company magazine; screenwriter Michael Chaplin; opera star Graeme Danby; sculptor Eric Bainbridge; media entrepreneur Alex Connock and director of BBC North Peter Salmon.

It is important to the university’s approach that students are well linked in to the industries in which they are planning to work, so work experience, industry visits, masterclasses and final year shows and exhibitions which showcase the talents of graduates, combine to create a great student experience for those studying to enter the creative and cultural sector.

Many graduates end up working for major brands and companies locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Those who have gone on to have successful careers are encouraged to return to the university to offer the current generation of students help and advice about how to progress their own career plans.

The university is also involved in supporting the city council with its creative industries development plans as well as its civic arts activity. The NGC, in partnership with the Sunderland-based Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, won more than £1million in funding from the Arts Council.