Planning the route | ROTOT

As this year’s edition of the Institute for the Creative Arts (ICA) Festival gets ready for launch under the theme of ‘ROTOT’ (routes), TEODOR RELJIC speaks to Tyrone Grima, Head of the Institute at MCAST, about how and why the annual event evolved from being an exhibition to a festival

The Festival is a route outlining the growth and the development of the artist in his or her years at the Institute
The Festival is a route outlining the growth and the development of the artist in his or her years at the Institute

How would you describe the history of the ICA Festival, and what would you say have been some of the most significant evolutions of this long-standing festival?

Historically speaking, the ICA Festival is an 18-year old tradition at the Institute for the Creative Arts (MCAST). In the festival final year students exhibit their artistic works, and events are held to create a platform of dialogue with the general public. These events include performances, workshops and conferences. There are eight departments participating in the Festival, namely, Fine Arts; 3D Design; Interactive Media; Graphic Design; Creative Media; Photography; Performing Arts and Cultural heritage. The traditional MCAST ‘end-of-year’ exhibition became a festival in the last two years. The aim of this change was to give the students their space back where the main focus would be on their works. The Festival also generates activities of an interactive nature, where the general public can enter into a dialogue with the students. I think the most memorable event was the visit of Prof. Vittorio Sgarbi in the first edition, who gave a public lecture and entered into a critical dialogue with the students in Fine Arts on their final projects.

This year’s edition will be held in Valletta, in a number of prestigious venues. In the past the Festival was attended by over 2,000 people but with the shift in venue, we firmly believe that this year the number will explode.

“We encourage our students to think out of the box, to be aware of trends developing locally and internationally”

What kind of significance would you say the festival holds for the students in particular? Would you say it’s a culmination of their work, and how does this then reflect back on the scene at large? Do you think this serves as something of a taster of the new generation of artists?

It is both a culmination of their work, as well as a bridge for the next step in their artistic journey. I believe that the choice of the name of the Festival this year, ‘Rotot’, captures this perfectly. The Festival is a route outlining the growth and the development of the artist in his or her years at the Institute, but it is also a beginning. They are presenting their work to the industry, showing the direction that the upcoming generation of artists would like to take their work to. We encourage our students to think out of the box, to be aware of trends developing locally and internationally, and not to be afraid to challenge. It is not just a question of high standards of technique, but moreover of the expression and implementation of interesting ideas and concepts that have something relevant and exciting to offer to society.

Tyrone Grima: “We firmly believe that this year the number of attendees at the festival will explode”
Tyrone Grima: “We firmly believe that this year the number of attendees at the festival will explode”

What are some of the challenges that young artists who are born and/or are living and working in Malta face? And how does MCAST help them go forward?

The biggest challenge is
frequently the guarantee of work. This does not apply to all departments. There are a number of disciplines where students find a full-time job on graduation, if not beforehand. However, other disciplines need to go beyond the structure of a daily 9-to-5 job. They need to be imaginative and entrepreneurial, by creating structures and opportunities that stimulate interest and henceforth can sustain the projects. There is also a lot of support beyond the Institute that the young artists can tap into, most notably the financial support offered by the structures of the available arts funds. The Institute trains the students to be entrepreneurial and makes them aware of the diverse structures available that they can make use of to support themselves.

What would you say is the connecting thread of this year’s edition of the festival, and what can visitors expect to experience?

This year the Festival will be held in Valletta in a number of different venues. This, within itself, is symbolical of this year’s edition of the Festival. The spectrum of routes that students have chosen, and which the new artists will opt for in their upcoming career, is incarnated in this symbol. Each department is unique and has its own route. Each student artist is unique and has his or her own route. But these routes together create a very fascinating web of artistic dynamics which can only be totally appreciated if perceived together. In a way, it is also promoting the interdisciplinary and holistic approach that the Institute has endorsed in the last two years. The works are fresh and some are very daring... that is a good sign.

 

This year’s edition of the ICA Festival will be taking place at the following venues around Valletta from 28 June – 3 July: Manoel Theatre studio (Performing Arts), Valletta local Council, National Library and School of Arts (Fine Arts), Creative Media and Photography (Spazju Kreattiv and Splendid), 3D Design (Palazzo Ferreria) and Graphic Design and Interactive Media (Ministry of Health and Archbishop’s Palace). For more information on the festival, log on to: http://2017.icafestival.com/

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