Farewell to OCA’s Peter Haveland
Peter Haveland, a tutor on visual studies and photography courses is retiring from his teaching career and leaving OCA. He’s been working with OCA for the best part of twenty years, so has seen the organisation evolve and grow. To mark Peter’s retirement, and out of my own curiosity, I asked him a few questions to reflect on his time as a tutor.
What was OCA like when you started?
In many, many ways it was a very different beast, but at the core it had the same purpose, that is to offer arts courses at HE level to those who, for a variety of reasons, could not get them full or part time at university or college. However…it was a tiny organisation in those days and the idea of a degree was little more than theoretical.
To many it must have looked like a cottage industry but the dedication of the tutors was exceptional (still is) and it was well on the way to moving totally from any face to face tuition (some saw this as at best a mixed blessing) to postal tuition. Even then, the need for changes was obvious and the search for accreditation by a reputable university was on.
I suppose the main advantage of such a tiny organisation was that it was so easy to get to know everyone in the office and many of the other tutors; I was inducted into the role of Photography Assessor rather quickly so this was definitely a good thing for me.
How has OCA evolved?
The changes are quite vast in so many ways but they have been incremental so perhaps less noticeable at the time. The change from an organisation whose students might possibly obtain enough credits for a degree to one where few students do not have this ambition is the most obvious and has the most consequences.
Moving to online tutoring, has been easier for some courses/pathways than for others I am sure, photography and visual studies are my subjects and for these the switch seems to me to be nothing but a good thing.
Underneath it all, though, must lie the fundamental ambition to deliver arts education of the highest standards to all who want it but can’t attend college or university in the traditional way. Open access has its challenges but is a vital element that keeps OCA special.
Can you share any memorable student success stories / experiences?
There have been a number of students who have achieved great success in terms of their degrees and are producing work that is being shown up and down the country but I like to think of those students who have simply exceeded their own expectations in terms of their personal development…the ones who have seen the light after much hard work, the ones who were betrayed by our schooling system but have achieved an ambition of studying an art discipline to any level of success. It is so easy to concentrate on those who get firsts, but at least as important are those who don’t, the severe dyslexic who finds her voice, the students with mobility issues and so on and so on; in so many ways these are the people OCA is most important for.
What are you taking from your OCA experiences?
Apart from the feeling that I might have made some contribution to the wellbeing of some of my students? Well…that would be enough really!
Any advice for new students (or tutors)?
Manage your expectations. Students shouldn’t expect to advance quickly or without a great deal of hard work. Study takes more time than you expect. Study tends to develop one’s curiosity and spawn a great deal more inquiry and this takes time. If there are family commitments, clashes will occur and sometimes there might be tensions so prepare them and try to get them to understand before you spend most of the holiday visiting galleries, reading books or making them into models! Try to organise yourself a dedicated work space, if you can maybe see if you can rent studio space somewhere.
For tutors, never underestimate a student’s intelligence nor their capabilities…never talk down to them but always be straight with them; if the work is terrible, say so, then discuss how to rescue it or what to do instead; being too mealy mouthed is betraying them. This is so much easier with online tutorials where body language plays its part and points can be debated immediately.
What’s next for you?
I am hoping that I will be able to make more work without the feeling that I should be doing a tutor report.
Seriously though, I am looking forward to taking up some of the opportunities that seem to be coming my way for making work. I am looking to possibly take up residency opportunities abroad as well as at home but in any case, just having the freedom to make work unhindered is something that I haven’t had in many decades and I find this exciting.
Thanks Peter, and on behalf of OCA, I’d like to wish you all the best for your future creative endeavours.