The arts routes

The arts routes

Mcast’s blossoming arts festival is creating a bridge for artists with industry and the community. Veronica Stivala takes a look behind the scenes.

Since last year, the Institute for the Creative Art’s (ICA) end-of-year exhibition has bloomed into a fully-fledged festival. With events including performances, workshops, conferences and various exhibition stands, the festival sees the participation of eight departments at the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology (Mcast), namely Fine Arts; 3D Design; Interactive Media; Graphic Design; Creative Media; Photography; Performing Arts and Cultural Heritage.

Julia SchembriJulia Schembri

The aim of the festival ties in with the ethos of the institute itself: to create a bridge with industry and the community. Indeed, the festival was a celebration of creativity, a manifestation of the creative talent, who think outside the box, who are on the ball with local and international trends, and who are not afraid to challenge. Entitled Rotot (routes), the festival represented not only artists’ route in their development at the institute, but was also the beginning of a new route.

This year saw the ICA push its limits and force itself out of its comfort zone, basing the festival in a number of prestigious venues in Valletta. Hard work pays off and this proved to be one of the core highlights of the festival. The venues played an important part in the festival’s ethos in preparing the student for the real world – of which more later – and the organi­sers tried to link these venues with the work reality which the students might be working in eventually. For example, the performing arts students were based at the studios at the Manoel Theatre.

Institute director Tyrone Grima comments how moving the festival to Valletta ensured the students were given maximum exposure. In fact, the amount of visitors this year grew drastically and included a number of foreign visitors who admired the local talent. Hosting the festival in the capital city, is, he believes, “the way forward”. Through its collaboration agreement with Spazju Kreattiv, the ICA is exploring ways in which to develop its partnership further and present the festival as part of Spazju Kreattiv’s creative programme. Tyrone also feels the festival can grow even further “to provide more opportunities of bridging between our students and the public through creativity and the arts”.

Indeed, bridging is an imperative word in ICA’s approach to nurturing its talent: the ICA prides itself in preparing the student for the real world, both from a crea­tive, but also an entrepreneurial one. “The creative and the entrepreneurial aspects are precisely the two main pillars in the education provided by ICA,” notes Tyrone.

Moving the festival to Valletta ensured the students were given maximum exposure

Explaining further, he points out how “the number of vocational units presented to the students enable them to develop their artistic technique and at the same time mature in their creativity by constantly challenging themselves”.

This is done since the modus operandi at the institute is a hands-on approach which is formative, giving extreme importance to the growth of the student, mentored by the tutor assigned to him or her.

The ICA also has units that equip the students with entrepreneurial skills. Grima knows that “a number of [ICA] students will not end up in an eight-to-five job, and so entrepreneurial skills are important as they are preparing for their life outside the institute”. The institute also offers a number of work-based learning experiences such as placements and life cases.

My life in art

Julia Schembri – BA Hons in Graphic Design 

Participating in the ICA festival allowed me to do things I never thought would be possible. I got to meet new people along the way and also learnt how to work with different characters and face constant challenges.

I exhibited my thesis project, which explored whether traditional methods of printing were being overshadowed by digital ones. Through interviews and a questionnaire, I came to the conclusion that no printing method is better than the other and that both are important in the industry. So the project merges both digital and traditional: I created a print through a traditional method using conductive ink together with a touch board, wires and projection mapping software. When people touched the ink, an animation was triggered and translated onto the print through a projector. I wanted to show people that both media can be used, and also included a sensory and interactive aspect to the project. Getting to see people’s reaction when interacting with it was rewarding.

My degree in graphic design has really opened my eyes about the industry and made me appreciate the finer aspects of design. The course has definitely shown me what I am capable of and I have learnt that it is OK to be 100 per cent confident with one aspect rather than trying to be the best in everything.

I want to constantly grow as a designer so my aim is to keep working on my own projects and to keep learning about different media and styles. It is very doubtful that I will find work related to every aspect that I like in design, so it is important to not let go of the things I truly love. In the near future I wish to apply for a more focused master’s course. 

My advice to anyone looking to pursue a career in the arts is to never give up! There will be moments when a task might seem overly challenging, but look at in a way that the brief must be met. What’s great about the course is that no one is ever tied down to use a particular style, and over the three years we learnt how to find our own best style to match the brief. No one can define your design style so translate yourself as a designer through your work and you will always feel accomplished.

To find out more, read student Julia Schembri’s account of her experience as a festival participant, and visit

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