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Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Scholarship rewards talented University College Falmouth fine art students

Two first-year fine art students from University College Falmouth are to benefit from a new scholarship that commemorates the life and artistic legacy of the late Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004) was a founder member of the Penwith Society of Artists, a leading light in St Ives since the 1940s along with Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, and one of the foremost abstract artists in the country, whose paintings can be found in public collections throughout the UK including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the British Museum, the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum. She was passionate in her support for emerging artists and this scholarship is testament to that. Originally intended as a scholarship for one student, such was the quality of the applicants this year that the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Scholarship was awarded to two students – Laura Culham from Poole in Dorset and Leila Watts from Brighton. Each of them will receive £1,500 for the next three years.

To apply for the Scholarship, first year full and part-time BA(Hons) Fine Art students at the University College were invited to submit a carefully selected portfolio of past and present work during the autumn term, and 33 students took up the opportunity. A selection panel comprising BA(Hons) Fine Art Course Leader, Joe Coates, Fine Art Business Fellow, Sara Bowler and Director of Art, Jeff Hellyer shortlisted seven students on the basis of portfolio evaluation. The shortlisted students were then interviewed by Professor Stephen Farthing RA – the Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Drawing at the University of the Arts, London – Joe Coates, Jeff Hellyer and Bursary Administrator, Dr Robin Kirby.

"The selection process was extremely rigorous and reducing the initial applicants to seven was tough," explained Jeff Hellyer. "Although all applicants scored highly, there were some outstanding students who didn't even make it through the first round, such was the exceptional quality of the work submitted," he added. "However, Laura and Leila demonstrated a real grasp of their creative domains as well as astounding levels of commitment and maturity, and thoroughly deserve this accolade."

"Through the varied processes of drawing, I am trying to document ephemeral moments by exploring subtle mark making that maps movement, patterns of change and traces in a controlled, linear format," explained Laura Culham. "The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Scholarship will enable me to push forward my work using exciting experimental processes and media that previously would not have been financially viable, so I greatly appreciate the Trust's support."

"I too am very grateful to the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Charitable Trust for freeing me from the distraction of financial strain so that I can be more focused and productive," added Leila Watts, who is currently exploring the theme of human presence and narrative in a series of life-size figurative paintings.

"To support and inspire art students and emerging artists by providing grants and bursaries to enable them to attend selected art colleges and universities is one of the fundamental principles that underlies the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust," explained Geoffrey Bertram, Chairman of the Trust. "Wilhelmina Barns-Graham herself benefited from the generosity of Edinburgh College of Art as a young artist, and it was her wish to 'give something back' that inspired her to establish the Trust," he added. "The Trustees are therefore delighted that this Scholarship has been awarded to two outstanding students."

"Laura and Leila are very worthy winners of this important scholarship," concluded University College Falmouth's Principal, Professor Alan Livingston. "The generous contribution that the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Scholarship has made to the financial wellbeing of these exceptionally talented students will alleviate some of the pressures faced by students today and help them to focus on realising their ambitions as artists," he added. "University College Falmouth is wholly committed to supporting the artists of the future and very much appreciates the prestigious association that the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Scholarship provides."

University College Falmouth is a founding partner in the Combined Universities in Cornwall, a unique initiative to promote regional economic regeneration through higher education. The CUC is funded mainly by the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council.

For further information about BA(Hons) Fine Art at University College Falmouth, please visit, email or contact Admissions on 01326 214376 (for the full-time route) or 01326 214377 (for the part-time option).

For further information contact Jilly Easterby of University College Falmouth on 01326 213792 or email

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project, both Phase 1 and Phase 2, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). University College Falmouth is a partner of the CUC.


Editor's notes:



Clare Morgan
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