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Art at RIC

The Good Schools Guide, reviewing RIC said: 'It's hard to imagine better provision for an artist.' We were one of the first independent schools in Kent to receive an Artsmark back in 2008.

We’re a school where the centrality of the arts is evidenced by a curriculum where it’s a case of Artsbacc not Ebacc, in the range of our student achievements, in our staff, facilities and the variety of arts based community projects supported.

A level students enjoy an Art College atmosphere where they are welcomed at all times during the working week, not just during lesson times. Spacious studio spaces are available with individual working zones for fine art students and an open area for graphics, textiles, ceramics and photography students. All those who teach within the department are active, practicing artists, designers and photographers whose concern for the subject is not restricted to teaching and who therefore bring freshness of experience.

By the time students leave RIC they know how to work, they know better who they are and can take responsibility for themselves and the direction of their art. The final outcome of artistic activity and personal reflection is as important as the journey that gets students to that point. Art students often benefit from the theoretical and historical insights gained by studying A level Art History alongside their creative subjects. There is a culture of encouraging students to become active and involved in their own learning by referring them to other sources. Art, Photography, Graphics and Art History students are all inducted into using the neighbouring University of the Creative Arts library.

Students specialise in one of the following areas:

  • Fine Art (including drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking)
  • Graphic Design (including corporate identity, packaging, illustration, printmaking and computer aided design)
  • Photography (including traditional and digital photography, studio techniques, lighting and Photoshop)
  • Textiles (including fashion)
  • Film, Digital Media and Animation

Students are able to combine Visual Arts courses with additional A levels in Art History, Drama and Theatre Studies, English, Film Studies and Media Studies. Students at the end of their courses are well placed to proceed to either degree or foundation programmes at Art Colleges and universities. Click here for our visual arts blog

Two RIC students had work selected to hang in The 2021 Royal Academy Young Artists Summer’ Show. Ashley-Rae is just finishing year 12 and Otto is due to start in year 7 in September.

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Prize winning art work at Rochester Independent College

RIC students have swept the artistic board, winning a record ELEVEN prestigious arts awards in a competition organised by The Independent Schools Association.

The awards include work in fashion and textiles, film and digital media, ceramic design and fine art.

Principal Alistair Brownlow says: “We are very proud of our talented students who have been so successful in the competition for the London and the South East region. Their work will now go forward to the national competitions. At RIC we are a boarding school that specialises in helping students prepare for careers in the creative industries and students studying GCSEs and A levels with us are also able to build up impressive portfolios for university and art school entrance.”

Year 13 student Gigi Tang (pictured) who won the Key Stage 4 Fashion and Accessories from Hong Kong says “I think it is one of the best decisions I have made in my life to come and study art in the UK and Rochester. Since arts here have really amazed me and I feel really free to express myself creatively, which I have never felt before. It is unexpected for me to win that competition since I am actually more passionate about photography which I want to study at university, maybe at UAL or Goldsmiths. I just want to say I have met a lots brilliant creative arts teachers here at Rochester, and I think this is one of the reasons I was able to produce the prize winning work.”

As well as our students, RIC teachers are also a prize-winning bunch. In 2021 our Fashion and Textiles teacher Fran Baur was winner of the Teacher Award in the prestigious Wool4school/UAL Design competition. All of the teachers in our art department are practicing creatives. Click here for a feature article on art teacher Great Warner's recent work:

Another of our students, aspiring film maker Luca Vasile-Berde won the top prize in the 2021 Boarding Schools Association Khadija Saye Photography Award, impressing judges with a collection of images titled ‘Brighton Murder Mystery.' Calling it ‘an attention-grabbing concept’ the judges praised the ‘filmic quality’ of the shots as well as their ‘sense of brooding mystery and ‘excellent technical details.’ Luca's first short film 'Bagged" is available on imdb here-

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Student art work decorates the whole site – I comment on some colourful cushions decorating the sofa in reception– they are the work of a student of course. I walk into a Sixth Form Art lesson and there’s a student drawing in more traditional ‘fine art’ style, another who is a potter and another (who didn’t study Art at GCSE) working on an impressive computer graphic design she created on her iPad. Bags of creativity – and variety – going on here

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Regular half and one-day artist’s workshops are held to encourage a broad approach to the creative process.

An artist in residence scheme is in place with a diverse range of artists, photographers and designers working with students on the college premises throughout the year.

Life drawing is part of the culture of the department and classes are held for A level students.

We are always very proud of our artwork produced by ex students who are humblingly generous with it. Notable examples are Aya Nambu’s pieces that remained largely unsullied by graffiti in Rochester Station for nearly 12 years before we rehomed them at RIC when the station moved.

There is an annual summer show and exhibition at local gallery spaces. ISI comment: “Pupils engage with and contribute to the local community through projects such as the attractive mural at Rochester railway station. Pupils’ artwork is displayed at numerous venues around the town, and at the Summer Festival pupils perform music and drama pieces to parents and guests from the wider community.” RIC students curate the photography hanging in the local Pizza Express and in a local barber’s shop. A recent show of RIC student work was at ‘The Deaf Cat’ café and studio space on Rochester High Street, one of Medway’s newest artistic hubs.

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Recent trips organised by the Art Department include overseas visits to Paris as well as many visits to the V & A, Tate Modern, the National Portrait Gallery, the Abstract Expressionism and Ai Wei Wei exhibitions at the Royal Academy, the London Museum of Transport, the Saatchi Gallery and the Royal Academy, The Design Museum, Zandra Rhodes’s Museum of Fashion and Textiles in Bermondsey, the Computer Arts Graduate Showcase at Cafe 1001, Brick Lane, the Museum of Brands, Advertising and Packaging in Notting Hill, the Powell Cotton Museum in Birchington and Billy Childish’s studio in Whitstable.

Portfolio Prep @RIC

Offers to Art and Design related degrees are generally made on the strength of the applicants’ portfolio. At Rochester Independent College we have an excellent track record of helping our students put together strong portfolios. We help you to make the most of your strengths and present a personal response. UAL like many art colleges outline five categories by which they judge a successful portfolio:

1 Visualisation skills

2 Research and investigative skills

3 Creative thinking and problem solving abilities

4 Use a range of materials and processes5 Interest in art, design or related subjects

The way we structure the A level course reflects these categories meaning that by the end of the course you will have a portfolio which fulfils all of the criteria above. Each project will begin with some initial research. This may take the form of drawing, taking photographs or researching from books or websites. We will also introduce you to a broad range of important artists, photographers and designers and teach you how to analyse their work. You will be taught a variety of different techniques and processes and encouraged to experiment. The question ‘What happens if?’ is at the heart of a successful project and a strong portfolio will reflect this spirit of creative enquiry. The most important feature of any project is the creative journey you go on. We will encourage you to explore different ways of developing your work, to solve problems creatively and to create genuinely original, personal work. We will develop your ability to reflect on what you have made and consider how to refine your work in order to best realise your intentions.

Personal creativity is genuinely at the heart of the philosophy of the Visual arts at RIC. We strive to develop your personal creative voice rather than forcing every student to mindlessly produce the same project with the same pre-determined outcome. This is possible because of our small classes and the extraordinary depth and breadth of our subject leaders who are specialists in their area. This means that we can adapt our teaching to your individual needs and interests resulting in a personal portfolio which will stand out from generic school projects. In our experience, a student who is making work that genuinely interests them and feels personally relevant will engage so much more fully than one who is just doing a project that the teacher has set with artists chosen for them.

Robin Macintosh, Head of Art

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I came to RIC shortly after moving to England from Lithuania. I tried going to a state school first but found it a very unpleasant environment. The informal nature of RIC made it feel welcoming- a place where you were heard, seen and cared about. I joined at 13, in year 10. For A level I chose to do subjects in arts and humanities- fine art, drama, english, history of art and philosophy. I enjoyed the critical, academic aspects of philosophy, english and history of art which provided me with analytic skills whereas drama and fine art allowed plenty of room for creativity and exploration. The Fine Art department was the place where I spent most of my time- from lessons to lunchtimes. The staff were not only inspiring teachers but also friends who supported my artistic (and not only) development for four years. It was here that I gained a love for art and became certain I wanted to carry on doing it at university. When it came to applications, I was given help and advice on my portfolio as well as encouragement. I went on to do a foundation in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. I think this course was an invaluable experience for me- I learnt to develop, inform and challenge my art practice further. After completing a BA, I hope to work as a practicing artist, art critic or a curator. 

Ginte won a place UCL's Slade School of Fine Art after her foundation at Central Saint Martins. 

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