Emmajane Kingaby - BA (Hons) Contemporary Art Practice

With a passion for Art and Design, Emmajane returned to education, fulfilling a lifelong ambition to pursue a career in the creative sector. She is now graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Contemporary Art Practice from Gray's School of Art, and is the winner of the first ever Principal’s Award for Fine Art.

Emmajane, from Collieston in Aberdeenshire, says Art and Design has always been a big part of her, but she was advised art wasn’t a career and that it wouldn’t support her financially.

Upon leaving school aged 15, Emmajane decided to study Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy at Banff and Buchan College (now NESCol). She then moved into retail, believing this offered her the financial stability and opportunies to progress, joining the Tesco’s Management Programme where she spent many years successfully building her career.

In 2016, Emmajane joined a charity called You2Africa as a volunteer teaching assistant whilst travelling. During this time, she supported children from highly deprived areas in a township outside Cape Town, South Africa, introducing them to arts and craft materials which she carried in her backpack from Scotland. This experience changed everything and inspired Emmajane to return to education to pursue her passion in Art and Design.

Whilst still in retail management, Emmmajane returned to education, for a part time higher English course at the North East Scotland College (NEScol.) She then returned to education full time, studying a HNC in Art and Design at NEScol. This provided her with a steppingstone and Degree Link pathway into second year at Gray’s School of Art.

Gray’s appealed because Emmajane recognised the University’s commitment to support the creative sector in the North East of Scotland and the role Gray’s graduates play in enhancing the region’s cultural development.

Emmajane said: “I had always found previous degree shows at Gray’s really inspiring. I was attracted by the people, the creativity, freedom, flexibility and accessibility to a multitude of facilities. I remember a tour of Gray’s and how I felt walking around the Contemporary Art Practice studios. This stimulated a craving for experimentation and my ambition to pursue a degree at Gray’s School of Art.”

Despite ongoing challenges associated with Covid-19, Emmajane has excelled at Gray’s and is graduating with a First-Class Honours degree in Contemporary Art Practice. She has also been presented with the first Principal’s Award for Fine Art and a Special Recognition Award for her support to improve student experience during Covid-19.

Reflecting on her experience at Gray’s, Emmajane says: “It is an absolute honour to have been awarded the First Principles Award for Fine Art and I feel incredibly proud to be part of the RGU Art and Heritage Collection. I am still very much digesting and processing my experience at university.

“Both Gray's School of Art and Robert Gordon University represent a transformation for me and a huge part of this also involved the Look Again Aberdeen team, a creative unit based in Gray's School of Art. I am very excited by the opportunities my degree in Contemporary Art presents but already it feels there is a large part of me missing, no longer being in Gray's.”

“For a number of my peers and myself, our final year of studies has actually been our first full academic year, physically in Gray's. I joined my peers in Stage 2 and the lockdown forced the physical closure of Gray’s School of Art during the second semester of my first year at university. For me, it wasn't until it came to our final hand in and the last day installing our degree show, that it hit me just how much we had come through together.

"Our degree show, ‘Welcome to the real world’ has essentially been our way of inviting everyone back into Gray’s to explore the development of our creative practice in response to the limitations presented by COVID19 throughout our education. Together with peers from 2020, 2021 and 2022, we are part of a different generation of creatives emerging from Gray’s School of Art and that’s very exciting!”

Whilst at RGU, Emmajane took advantage of a wealth of opportunities and was appointed as a Student School Officer. She also worked in collaboration with Gray’s creative unit, Look Again, on a number of programmes including the ‘Guest at Gray’s' programme which brings together inspiring national and international artists, designers, writers and curators.

Emmajane worked as an institutional trainer for the university, delivering training for representatives as part of RGU Union. She was also an associate trainer as part of sparqs - Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland, and worked collaboratively to enhance the quality of learning for students.

Now that Emmajane is graduating, she says: “Personal and professional development really feed directly into your degree at RGU. Employability is integrated throughout the course and you have a so many opportunities to meet creatives and to network. RGU has give me so many opportunities  to work across the schools, collaborating with creatives, entrepreneurs, and scientists via the Scottish Innovative Student Award (SISA) programme and various other entrepreneurial projects.

“As I graduate I am looking forward to building my career within the creative industry. It’s never too late to return to education and we are surrounded by a network of knowledge and expertise in the North East of Scotland. Both institutions, NEScol and RGU, are accessible and inspiring for anyone returning to education.”

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