The Coral Reef: a special feature on visual arts at Waterloo

Over the past 125-plus years, there has been a visual arts provision for adult students running at Morley College London’s Waterloo Centre: in 1897 the offer consisted of drawing and wood carving; today we have a nationally-significant art curriculum offer that is defined by its depth, breadth and quality.

The Coral Reef: intricate, beautiful, finely designed, well-constructed

I use the image of a coral reef to capture the intricate, beautiful, finely designed and well-constructed community of interrelated disciplines and activities operating at all levels from beginner to post-graduate.

Our offer

We have a successful suite of courses offering qualifications – Art Foundation, Access to Fashion, HND Ceramics and BA Fashion.

In addition, we have several hundred non-accredited courses within finely structured progression pathways – either lateral progression to related subjects and skills, or progression to higher levels including Textile Foundation and Fine Art Mentoring where students progress to Royal College of Art or City & Guilds School of Art.

Our students have a wide range of motivations for learning, from well-being to career change; from professional development to building their own practice. We focus on preparing them for life and work in the creative industries at all levels of learning.

Our facilities

There are 16 well-equipped specialist studios, including the unique stand-alone Pelham Hall, which offers everything in the field of sculpture, from welding to wood and stone carving to clay modelling and bronze casting.

Across Visual Arts, students have access to both modern up-to-date technology, digital resources and also a wealth of well-maintained traditional equipment.

Creative pathways

In addition to the main pathways (Ceramics, Fashion, Jewellery, Painting and Drawing, Sculpture, Textiles) we offer many unusual and ‘hidden’ arts that showcase rare and valuable skills and expertise. Examples include:

  • Tapestry
  • Calligraphy
  • Glass Engraving
  • Silverpoint
  • Egg Tempera
  • Natural Dye
  • Stump work
  • Costume
  • Bookbinding
  • Bronze Casting
  • Printmaking
  • and many more.

We keep these arts alive. This is made possible by our highly-skilled tutor team – many of whom are well known in their fields, and all of whom are practitioners in the industry, bringing their deep knowledge to share with students and making each class a masterclass.

Our students and alumni

Our alumni include many well-known artists and makers, some who return to Morley to teach on our courses. 

The quality of student work is consistently outstanding, and we celebrate this with a schedule of exhibitions, competitions and events each year. Students learn the vocational skills needed to complete work for a show, select work, write an artists’ statement, present the work and set a price for the work.

Student shows are an enriching and inspiring feature of life at Waterloo. Our two Scholarships – funded by the Zsuzsi Roboz Trust and by DeBeers – give free places for a year’s study for six artists supported with specialist 1-1 tutoring within the School of Visual Arts, and are designed to take the Scholars to the next level in their career.

The study of art in its many forms gives student many additional skills that have value in their lives – including creativity, independent thinking, project management, confidence, visual intelligence, manual skills and dexterity, team-work, enjoyment, appreciation, courage, well-being, preparing for work in the creative industries, preparing for self-employment, enrichment, social context, cultural context, hope, meaning, value and being valued. 

Speaking with students regularly, I observe how greatly they value the wider and deeper learning that comes along with achieving the course objectives. All students set personal goals for each course – and many comment at how much the appreciate the feedback they receive from tutors, which helps them see what to do next.

Our location in central London enables students to keep in touch with the creative industries, events and exhibitions that take place all around us. We maintain valuable external partnerships and collaborations, which enrich the student experience with live projects and industry links.

In these times of funding cuts Visual Arts at Morley Waterloo is a great asset – and a shining example of why visual arts is essential to our well-being, our economy and our culture.

Sara Robertson-Jonas
Head of Visual Arts
Waterloo Centre for Adult Education

Read more about our Visual Arts provision here.