On Friday night I went to the College of Fine Arts Annual exhibition of graduate work. I have a long standing relationship with COFA which began when I was 19 and enrolled in the Bachelor of Art Theory degree. I went on to study for 6 years and worked there for 4. This year was the first time the COFA Annual had been back on the Paddington campus for about 3 years as they had been redeveloping it. Gone is the 70s style courtyard with its trees and old benches, replaced by a concrete jungle. No trees, no shade, very little creativity. Anyway, I digress from my point....
My first writing experience was with the COFA Magazine, a free publication produced by COFA that highlighted the great things COFA students and graduates were doing in the industry. The writers were students or Alumni and for many it was our first taste of the world of publishing. My first ever interview was with artist Sandra Landolt for the COFA Magazine, later an interview I did with media artist Sam Smith would, years later, lead to a collaborative exhibition in Birmingham, UK while I was involved with an Artist Run Initiative there, I now work with an artist whom I first met though an interview for the magazine - it wasn't just a first step into the industry, it was a means of meeting people and connecting with others in the sector.
I tried to find out how long the COFA Magazine (later to be renamed Incubate) had been in circulation - it's been at least 10 years - but I couldn't find exact dates. Unfortunately the new powers that be at COFA have decided to cease publication of the magazine, despite the fact that a survey revealed over 90% of the student body thought it was valuable and actually influenced their decision to attend the university. I confess I don't know the reasoning behind the decision, however if it is down to funds (as is generally the case) they could easily move it online. But they're not moving the publication online, they're just killing it.
I believe this is a monumental error and will drastically reduce enrollments and the general awareness of what the campus is doing. It's difficult for any writer starting out in the arts to catch a break, the COFA Magazine provided a means to get a foot in the door and start building a portfolio and get practical experience. It also gave artists, designers and arts practitioners a platform to show what they've been working on and the amazing work that comes out of the college.
It's disheartening to see that the opinions of the students count for so little and as an Alumni and an ex-employee this is the first time I've openly criticised COFA, but it's time that people with their own agendas perhaps consider the welfare of those who pay exorbitant fees to gain an education in the delightful concrete jungle that is now the COFA campus.