UAL Chelsea V Central Saint Martins - Fine Art BA

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jazzystardust
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I have offers for both Chelsea and CSM undergrad fine art courses, but I'm not sure which to go with. I'm currently on the CSM diagnostic foundation, specialising in 4D fine art.

The main comparison I've heard is that CSM is a pressurised environment compared to the chill Chelsea experience. CSM's reputation is obviously appealing, but it is mainly related to fashion, while I've heard Chelsea has a great rep for fine art? If anyone can comment on their own experiences on these courses, and if it suited their own personality/practice, I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks
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leeaahlee
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Hey! I'm in the same boat. I have an offer for fine art at CSM and waiting to hear back from my interview for sculpture and Camberwell and my interview for Chelsea is next month. I think ill be torn between CSM and Chelsea???? They both have different strengths and weaknesses, it's hard to get the personal element from them online with so little to work from.
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University of the Arts London Student Reps
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(Original post by jazzystardust)
I have offers for both Chelsea and CSM undergrad fine art courses, but I'm not sure which to go with. I'm currently on the CSM diagnostic foundation, specialising in 4D fine art.

The main comparison I've heard is that CSM is a pressurised environment compared to the chill Chelsea experience. CSM's reputation is obviously appealing, but it is mainly related to fashion, while I've heard Chelsea has a great rep for fine art? If anyone can comment on their own experiences on these courses, and if it suited their own personality/practice, I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks
Hey jazzystardust,

One of my fellow student reps Hannah who is a student of Fine Art at Chelsea wrote about this a few months ago so I have copied what she wrote here:

'In my opinion, both courses are well-suited to making experimental work and both are very reputable! I suppose if it's about making a decision between those two, if you haven't already, maybe think about alternative questions - like what kind of location you might prefer, perhaps transport links, the size of the colleges (CSM being a lot larger than Chelsea), where you might live, etc. as a starting point? These aspects of student life are just as important as the course itself!

So you might know this already, but I think the most obvious difference between the BA Fine Art course structures at CSM and Chelsea are the pathways. At CSM, students are taught within four pathways: 2D, 3D, 4D and XD. From talking to friends on the course, I think there is the opportunity to work quite freely within these pathways, responding to a 'form' of practice, rather than a set medium. This might be good if you like working within some kind of structure/boundaries. I have close friends in 2D and XD, and they make paintings/films, and paintings/mosaics/sculpture/film, respectively (despite what the name of the pathway suggests!). I’ve asked them to give me their take on the course, so if I get any more of their opinion I’ll let you know here, but I know that they really enjoy it, and they like being in a big, modern, busy building with such an array of courses around them! I did my Foundation at CSM Archway, but used the King's Cross campus a lot for the library etc, and I really enjoyed the busy atmosphere, and I joined a lot of societies and clubs where I ended up meeting people from all different colleges.

At Chelsea there isn’t a pathway structure. I think this is interpreted as an emphasis on ideas - however, it generally just means that people often have a fluid approach to their practice, working across media/in different ways. Of course, this doesn’t mean to say that you can’t work with ‘traditional’ methods of art-making, or just stick to one medium, if you prefer. For me, it has meant that the nature of the course is quite receptive to a diverse range of practices - e.g. I’m a sculptor, but I also work with a collective where I do mostly performative work!

My experience of the tutors at Chelsea has actually been really positive. Like anything, you get out of it what you put in. So even if you’re a bit stuck, or unsure of your current direction, if you come to a tutorial with ideas or things you are thinking about, the tutors are usually able to give you some references or help you to figure out where you want to go next. There is an emphasis on independent artistic practice, but with the tutor support available to you. You will have more support in the first year, and less as you progress through the course as you naturally become more independent. However tutors are usually really happy for you to reach out to them or send them an email if you need extra support or advice! As far as I know, next year due to Covid-19, lectures and artist talks are likely to be all online, but the tutors are hopeful that we will have proper access to the studios, facilities and the library - there might be some restrictions in terms of how many people can be in at once or when, and tutor groups might be smaller, but nothing has been confirmed yet and we’re still waiting to hear. I’m hoping that this won’t have much impact on our work as long as we manage our time well! I can't say in regard to things like Freshers' week etc, I think there are a lot of plans still being made!

Chelsea as a college is smaller and there are less courses/students, which I actually really like because I love the building, and it feels a bit more intimate and peaceful. I think that the first year structure has changed a little bit from when I was in first year, but the tutors remain largely the same and there is still the opportunity to do an off-site show I believe, something which is a large part of being a Fine Art student at Chelsea - you are actively encouraged to curate and participate in external shows, and this counts towards your credits too! I think this is usually part of Easter/Summer term - I think unfortunately at this stage there isn’t enough information yet about whether/when this will still happen because of Covid-19, but fingers crossed! If you have any specific questions about the size of the course/specifics about first year, I would suggest using the portal here to get in touch!

The studios at Chelsea are designed to be an open, communicative, fluid space. You’re usually given an area of the studio with a group of students, and then it’s up to you how you use that space between you - you’re not given a set area, rather, use the space how you need it in relation to your practice. Some digital artists who mostly need a computer might just need a desk and a bit of a wall, whereas someone else might make large floor-based works. It’s about being flexible and out of this comes a really interesting mix of practices in the same space, and it’s a great way to get to know each other, and even create the opportunity for collaboration. I’ve got to know people across the course this way. Also, in second year you will get the opportunity to work collectively, and this can be really wonderful for coming out of your comfort zone - I also made some of my closest friends in this time.
The thing about UAL is that it is all one university, so you can meet people from across colleges and use the other libraries, perhaps if there is a book you want somewhere else or you just want a change of scene! For example, I live closer to CSM so I sometimes I’ll go there for their library and coffee!'

I hope that is useful and if you have any questions about CSM or studying in London then please do not hesitate to ask and hopefully I can help.

Kindest,

Tegan
UAL Student Rep
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