Gerrit Rietveld Academy: To Abandon What Has Been

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By Prisca DeGroatMore from this author

It is named after a great architect, located in the southern part of one of Europe's most interesting cities and educates its students to take an individual risk: the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam

In May 2007, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its foundation. Today more than 900 students are being guided and educated here in the fields of the visual arts and the design of innovative and artistic thought patterns, following in the footsteps of the architect after whom it is named. Indisputable proof of the excellent reputation of the Academy is the high number of foreign students: almost half of the students enrolled are guests from across the world - from more than 40 different countries.

Gerrit Rietveld Academy

Impressions of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam

Black and white drawing by Merel Boers

Ring "Scream" by Chiaki Kamikawa, made from chocolate

A desire for independent, creative and curious thinking and the courage to explore new avenues characterize the typical Rietveld student. The aim of the Academy is to promote these skills and talents. According to the information brochure, the typical Rietveld student is 'motivated, critical, independent, communicatively adept, open and enterprising'. Research and a spirit of experimentation play a crucial part in promoting new developments at an inter-disciplinary level. The four-year course is structured such that it offers broad scope for individuals to explore new possibilities and find their creative niche.

A year of discovery

All students who have passed the two rounds of the application process begin with a propaedeutic year. The aim of this introductory year is to provide students with sufficient knowledge of the various different disciplines so that they can make an informed decision about what areas they want to specialize in after competing this propaedeutic year. Many also use the introductory year to reconsider their interests or discover totally new talents. During this time, students also have two opportunities to present the development of their work to date through small exhibitions. The introductory phase is rounded off with written and oral exams after which the students together with the lecturers decide whether a continuation of studies is advisable or whether a re-think is recommended.

Examination (2006) by Merel Boers, specialist field fashion

Hildur Jonsdottir, brooch made from aluminum wool

A year of specialization

After choosing a subject of study, the second year provides a general introduction to this specialist field. Here, students can choose from two paths: the autonomous art route and the design route. The autonomous art route is subdivided into the fields of visual arts, theater design, glass, photography, audiovisual and ceramics. The design sector provides study in the fields of graphic design, architectural design, design lab, jewelry fashion design and textile design.

A year of practical exchange

In the third year, the future artists and designers have the opportunity to extend their range of knowledge through an internship or study abroad. The Gerrit Rietveld Academy cooperates with art universities across the world: New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Melbourne, Kyoto and universities across Europe all offer international exchange opportunities.

A year of individuality

The last year is devoted to projects selected by the students themselves and upon which the students work independently, supported by at least two supervisors. The final piece of work, which will be displayed in a public exhibition, as well as a written paper complete the course and lead to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or Bachelor of Design (B Des).

Unlike most other art universities, the focus is on the individuality of the individual - this applies to both the students and lecturers alike. The tutors are artists and designers who are usually pursuing their own professional career and as such can provide practical supervision. Particular value is placed on lecturers incorporating their own work approach and concepts into the teaching. The students are expected to break away from the usual expectations and to find their own path. Iris Eichberg, head of the jewelry department, defines the work of her field as follows: "A team of teachers, each with a strong personal view and statement, inspires and stretches each student to achieve a personal goal. Each individual process will always demand and deserve curiosity and support. During the short, intense period at the Rietveld Academy we expect each student to develop an open, experimental mind; be prepared to abandon what has been or what was regarded as paramount. We invite them to take and accept risks. The main objective is to ensure the achievement of a place of their own, a personal position, in an independent way." She goes on to say that: "Based on a technical heritage, the Rietveld Academy offers enormous freedom to its students. However, this freedom demands commitment from students to study and also calls for the ability to conduct independent research. We are not engaged in a traditional approach nor trying to recreate the traditional image of jewelry. We are striving toward a new concept, a new way to express the essence of a piece of jewelry."

Homage to photography of past times. "The Summer Album" by Hanna Mattes, Department of Photography

Man-made things swallowed and overgrown by nature is the main theme of Roos van Soest's objects and jewelry. Exam 2006

Crackery Stack: exam work by Joana Meroz, Department of ceramics

Graduate of the Sandberg Instituut: Tanja Niedermann and her porcelain rings

To ensure that the students are educated not lust in their respective subject fields, but also receive a comprehensive world knowledge, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy offers the 'General Study'. Students have the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the context of cultural h story in six different teaching blocks. The Rietveld office, linked to the Academy, initiates projects and establishes contact with companies and institutions outside of the Academy - students can gather initial practical experience in the profession through workshops, exhibitions or other projects In particular, the Academy attaches great importance to the financial aspect of being an independent artist and offers compulsory seminars with a comprehensive reading list on the issue in the third year. Those who wish to complete further study after their Bachelors degree and not enter professional life lust yet have the opportunity to do this at the Sandberg lnstituut. The Sandberg Instituut is linked to the GRA and offers Masters programs in Fine Arts, Applied Arts and Design.

by Prisca DeGroat

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Prisca DeGroat

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