A Sussex alumnus who graduated in 2010 in English Literature was awarded a bursary from American Express to fund a community arts project which enables those interested in arts realise their potential.Alicia Mitchell became inspired to create a space for those interested in arts while helping to organise an art exhibition last summer.

After finding it difficult to obtain employment following graduation, she wanted to provide opportunities for others to learn and to gain the necessary skills and experience to find future work. As a result she founded the Common Academy of Arts (CAA) in November 2010, hoping to make use of an empty, unused building in Brighton.

To win the bursary, Alicia entered a competition advertised by the Argus and was required to write a 100-word long statement detailing how she would use the money if it were awarded to her.

Alicia’s objective to organise a programme of a combination of free classes, talks, events and workshops for the community impressed the jury at American Express who awarded the CAA a grant to “enable them realise their potential”.

Upon hearing the news, Alicia said: “I was shocked. Until that point it was hopeless. I was scared that I won’t make it happen.

“This is very good, and encourages me greatly. From previously being vaguely nowhere I feel the CAA is now almost certainly somewhere, glimmering, in the future.”

The CAA provides free access for all and values community engagement, learning through creativity and creativity through learning for volunteers and visitors. The project is not-for-profit and is wholly sustainable and ethical.

Future planned activities include drawing classes for those “who say they can’t draw (and those that think they can)”. Alicia is also keen on inviting professionals and PhD students of arts and visual media to give talks or short lectures.

So far, Alicia has received a good response from people interested in participating in the project and its development, especially after publishing an ad on Gumtree. In her blog, she revealed that she “was surprised and very happy by the number of responses from people who seem to be very interesting, talented and excited.”  She is also hoping that Argus will help with promotion and publicity.

To get in touch with Alicia and join the Academy visit her blog, http://commonacademy.blogspot.com/  or e-mail thecommoncacademy@gmail.com.

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Sussex alumnus wins grant for art project

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