Thursday 19 July 2012
Former Forth Valley College BA Art and Design student Maggie Laidlaw – who last year was one of the first FVC graduates to take advantage of a unique partnership agreement with the University who now validate the college’s BA Media and Communication and BA Art and Design degrees – has been awarded the Thomas Alexander Dunn Prize for best overall final year student in Film, Media and Journalism.
Maggie’s success is all the more impressive considering she left school at 15 with relatively few qualifications and only a ‘B’ in O’level Art. She has also had to battle hard to support a teenage son with Asperger’s Syndrome and twin daughters, fight her way through depression and only started an Introduction to Art class at Falkirk College in 2003, after a tutor on an informal recreational community art class suggested she explore her talent further.
From there she progressed through NC and Higher Art where she achieved an ‘A’ grade - her first top mark ever – though it would not be the last. An HND in Public Art followed at Forth Valley College and even the discovery she had dyslexia and was daunted at the thought of writing essays, could not hold her back.
Maggie said: “The ‘A’ I was awarded for my Higher Art & Design was the first ‘A’ I had ever had. I actually thought they had sent the results to the wrong person and I had to call the College to make sure!
“However the route through the Intro to Art and then the subsequent Falkirk and Forth Valley College courses was a very worthwhile one and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about Art.
“During the three years of my degree I slowly came to realise the change in my art practice. I found myself driven by the concept of works and found that the deeper meaning behind art works excited me much more than the aesthetics of a beautifully executed painting or sculpture. I was inspired by issues and subjects not readily discussed in everyday conversation and enjoyed raising awareness to these through research and the visual art form. A large installation on the subject of human trafficking and ‘people as a commodity, where I used a 30ft shipping container is an example of my recent work.
“Starting at the University of Stirling last September on the BA Honours course was the best step I could then have made as it allowed me to develop my written research and academic skills even further.
“At first I thought I might be out of my depth, but the support I have had from the University has been absolutely amazing. My written dissertation studied Cultural Attitudes to Labiaplasty (female cosmetic genital surgery), but this time I had to keep it within the bounds of Film, Media and Journalism and not Art. From a total of six modules I managed to gain 5 first class passes and one 2nd class pass and it is from these exceptionally high grades that I have won this prize.
“Graduating with a First Class Honours feels wonderful, but even knowing I had a First didn’t prepare me for the award presentation. I didn’t recognise myself in the presentation speech and was looking around the room to see who the highly acclaimed student was. I had no idea they were talking about me!
“It was a culture shock moving from practice based to theory based study, while also learning how to write in this medium, having written about art for so long. So I am doubly proud of myself.”
Maggie has already been accepted to do a Masters by Research at Glasgow School of Art where she will continue with her research and also hopes to publish her paper on the subject of Labiaplasty. But with her 19 year-old daughters Samantha – currently studying an HND in Contemporary Art Practice at Forth Valley College – and Chloe studying for a BSc Hons in Veterinary Nursing at Napier University and her son David recently starting a new job and needing further support, funds are going to be tight.
She added: “It would be fantastic to find a sponsor who would help to support me through the next stage of my academic journey.
“The rewards you receive from education are immeasurable. To discover you have abilities that you never knew you had fills you with immense self-satisfaction. Pushing yourself to reach heights and achieve goals you never dreamt you could is utterly addictive. It makes your world so much bigger and much more interesting.
“I have come along way from being a full time single mother and Carer. I had no idea I had these abilities in me. Art and further education has completely changed my life.”
FVC’s Head of Creative Industries, Cathy Snedden, said: “We are so proud of what Maggie has achieved. She is a true inspiration and thoroughly deserves all her success. She was one of the first Forth Valley College BA Art and Design students to go on to the University of Stirling through our new partnership and her efforts have certainly endorsed and shown how worthwhile this excellent link up can be. I am sure she will go on to have a fantastic career in art.”
University of Stirling’s Deputy Head of the Division of Communications, Media and Culture, Dr Dee Amy-Chin, worked closely with Maggie as her lecturer during her time at Stirling.
She said: “Maggie was a delightful student and a joy to work with. She was a real inspiration to everyone who taught her. Maggie rapidly became an important member of the department and her talent and energy were exceptional in pioneering the degree.
“Her work was always of the highest standard which resulted in her receiving a grade of first class. We are delighted that she has progressed to further study at Glasgow School of Art and we would all like to wish her all the success in the world.”