It’s a dream college for thousands of aspiring artists, but only 195 make it to its portals for the bachelor of fine arts (BFA) course every year. The College of Art (CoA) has a reputation reflected in its alumni’s success in the art world as well as in the senior echelons of advertising agencies.
What makes CoA an institute worth reckoning? The teaching-learning style, creative freedom, location (many established artists are based in Delhi), opportunities to interact with noted practitioners and a chance to cross-learn from students from different art colleges in India who are hosted by the college at annual events etc.
The pedagogy here is not conventional either. After theory classes from 9am-11am, practical work goes on till 5pm, sometimes later, especially for sculpture students.
On a tour, this HT Education correspondent saw them not only in studios, but even in corridors and on steps wielding the tools of their craft without teachers guiding them (as an alum pointed out, students here are not spoonfed).
However, such is the competition to get in that many are left confused. Offering to clear the air, principal M Vijayamohan says, “It’s a fool-proof system. There’s no hanky-panky.” Art is subjective, he says, talking about the admission test, which includes papers on object drawing and on the chosen art specialisation, apart from general knowledge.
Vijayamohan says that the CoA forms a group of Delhi-based experts, who are retired principals of various art colleges, to evaluate the candidates’ work. Before distribution for evaluation, the answer books are labelled with new serial numbers to hide the test-takers’ actual identity, he explains. “Finally (after evaluation), the examiners themselves put the (original) roll numbers back on the sheets. I don’t even allow my team to do this.”
The exposure it gives to students and an active alumni association (formally launched in March), which acts as a bridge to the job mart
The college has 20 faculty members in addition to 37 contractual teachers
The college offers a four-year BFA with six specialisations — applied art, art history, painting, print making, sculpture, and visual communication as also MFA courses in all these except art history. It also conducts a diploma course in fine art (without theory) and a post graduate diploma in fine art for speech and hearing impaired students
The 5.63-acre campus stands on a prime spot near India Gate in New Delhi. It’s like one vast studio with sculptures large and small (from Queen Victoria to a shoe), and paintings dotting the lawns, corridors, and nooks as well. The open spaces open themselves to fertile minds to draw inspirations. In the midst of the busy capital, it still seems quiet.
The library has 18,000-19,000 books. All departments have studios and workshop facilities too are available to “support” training in the specialisations (offset printing, metal casting, computer graphics, weaving and so on).
There’s a canteen and an art material shop on campus. The college has a gym and facilities for sports activities like table tennis, badminton, volley ball, basket ball, and yoga. It has no hostel
The complex is not Wi-Fi-enabled. The library is not computerised
Clubs and societies:
The college provides facilities for literary and music/ dance/ drama activities.
One of the most notable events on the CoA calendar is Samhita, the week-long annual seminar-cum-workshop where five students each from 10-14 leading art colleges come to take part in activities, interact with CoA students, faculty and experts.
“Students learn learn different ways of doing the same thing from each other,” elaborates Vijayamohan.
In addition to a graduation show and the annual art exhibition, the CoA holds a sports day in February.
“It opens your mind. You get to know a lot of personalities. We have fewer club activities. But the good outweighs the bad,” says Aruna Rao, a fourth-year student of painting.
The College of Art was set up in 1942 for advanced training in visual art (creative and applied). Administered by the Delhi government, it is affiliated to the University of Delhi and is under the Faculty of Music and Fine Art for academic matters
“The authorities do help us, but we would like a little more cooperation from them in our annual festival. We also want more activities other than the festival.”
Malvika Jain, a fourth-year student of painting