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Painting student lands prestigious artist residency at St George’s Ascot

Beth Smyth will spend from September 2023 to July 2024 as Artist in Residence at the all-girls boarding school
<p dir="ltr">Beth Smyth, a third-year <a href="">BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing &amp; Printmaking</a> student at Arts University Plymouth, has been awarded a prestigious residency at St George’s Ascot, an all-girls boarding school in Berkshire.</p> <p dir="ltr">23-year-old Beth, who hails from Armagh, Northern Ireland, will attend the residency which runs through the 2023/24 academic year, after she graduates. During the residency, she will live and work at the school, while also teaching workshops to students. She will also have the opportunity to create her own artwork in the school’s art studio.</p> <p dir="ltr">Beth said: “The residency came at such a good time. I was going to take two years out to save money and figure out what I wanted to do but I definitely already had the notion that I wanted to work with kids, whether through teaching or youth groups. This is a perfect opportunity to sample both. I’ll be running workshops with the girls at the school, as well as having my own studio space to influence and inspire the girls to keep doing their practice. It’s going to be an intense period of time but I’m excited to have a new structure. It’s all helped with my professional practical module. Without that module, I wouldn’t have pushed for this opportunity, it just wouldn’t have seemed achievable for myself.”<br /></p>
Beth Smyth Headshot

Beth Smyth

<p dir="ltr">The residency is part of an ongoing dedication to the arts by St George’s Ascot. Students are supported by experienced teachers as well as the Artist in Residence, providing expertise and inspiration to help students with their ongoing projects. During the course of the residency, each artist produces a portfolio of work to inspire the students, working towards an end of year exhibition, while pupils also get the opportunity to work with the Artist in Residence during lunchtimes and at after school co-curricular art clubs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Beth cites her volunteer work with local organisation <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Big Sis</a> as a catalyst for her applying for the residency at Royal Ascot.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’d always volunteered back home and Big Sis is a lovely charity, they teach about puberty, confidence and other feminine topics in a modern way. It was after reading the Big Sis mission statement that helped me make the decision to apply for a volunteer role. My own experience with menstruation sparked an interest in women’s health and I’ve always wanted to support other girls. I grew up without any sisters, so I thought it would be wonderful to give someone advice and assurance. When I first started volunteering, I had no idea how much of an influence it would have on me. Everything from simply knowing more about my body and how it functions to picking up life skills such as public speaking. I was able to convey my female experience and not be afraid to explore that in greater depth because of this supportive female environment. This caused me to express my femininity through my narrative in my paintings.”<br /></p>

Beth's work

<p dir="ltr">“It was through Big Sis that I gained the knowledge and skills I needed to feel secure in my application for the residency. Before Big Sis, I would have seen this opportunity and believed I could never take it. Through the two weeks of training with facilitators to the weeks I spent mentoring the girls, it felt like the residency was achievable - and not just achievable, I felt like I would actually be the right person for it! That proves to me how fantastic Big Sis as an organisation is; in just a few months, my perspective on myself and my confidence have been entirely transformed.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Beth’s work explores themes of identity, gender, and culture. By unravelling emotions such as grief, Beth was led to investigate her lived experience as an Irish woman within her practice. </p> <p dir="ltr">Beth said: “I’ve been exploring what roles men play and what women mean to me. I’ve learned not to have grief get on top of you and to let it out instead of carrying it. I mainly work with drawings, as drawings are more intimate for me, like diary entries. Paintings are where I get ideas out of my head. I work at quite a large scale, specifically with oil paints.”<br /></p>

Beth's work

<p dir="ltr">“I’ve really enjoyed my time at Arts University Plymouth. It let me focus on exactly what I wanted to do skills wise and taught me everything I needed to know to be able to continue my practice. The tutors are so helpful and help mould you in the right direction. My course leader has a never-ending passion for his subject and <a href="">Monika Rycerz</a>, one of our lecturers, is so hands-on. It’s a really well rounded education. My favourite thing is the community that I’ve built here. It’s a little cosy family that makes me want to stay in Plymouth.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="">Richard Webb</a>, Course Leader for <a href="">BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing &amp; Printmaking</a> at Arts University Plymouth, said: “Beth is a talented artist with a strong commitment to social justice. She is a valuable asset to the St George’s Ascot community, and I am confident that she will make a significant contribution to the school’s arts program. The residency is a great opportunity for Beth to share her passion for art with young people and to make a positive impact on the lives of the students at St George's Ascot. I am confident that she will make the most of this opportunity and that she will create work that is both meaningful and impactful.”<br /></p>