Anna Uhr Delia
Anna Uhr Delia - Dartmouth Artist
My Job - Anna Uhr Delia
Who are you?
Anna Uhr Delia, and I’ve been the artist in residence at Dartmouth Community College since last year. Originally it was going to be a four-week block but the post has grown and developed with regular workshop sessions so that I’ve been involved with the school for two or three days a week from then on.
I first developed strong links with Nic Perrott, the school’s head of art and design, when I was in charge of marketing for The Flavel. When Nic invited me to be the artist in residence I said yes immediately – but had no idea what it meant!
What is your job?
At first I thought artist in residence meant I would set up my studio in the school’s sculpture studio and the students would come and observe me working on my paintings. But it didn’t quite work like that because I didn’t want the students to think they couldn’t disturb me, and they began to come in all the time.
I started one painting where any students could add bits to it on a daily basis, and a comment board where they could write their thoughts. The teachers would let the students come out of their art classes and work with me, asking for advice. Then I began using spray paints and they all started bringing their work to me. It’s good because I can work with students one at a time.
The work has been a lot more hands-on than I thought but I found I didn’t just want to be on view – I love the interaction with the students. We exhibited A level students’ work on the theme Songlines, where they chose a song they loved and used art to convey the emotion of the lyrics and music.
Some stunning pieces were created. I’ve also tried to take drawing out entirely for some students, because it is just one skill and if you are not great at drawing it can be a barrier to creativity. There are other ways to produce great art!
How long have you worked there?
Since the autumn – and I have loved every minute. The students are great. They produce some incredibly surprising strong work. I’ve had such a great time that it has made me think about pursuing a new career in teaching, and I hope to start a post graduate certificate in education, or similar, in September. What really excites me is cross curricular work – for example, linking maths and science data with art. We shall see!
Do you live nearby?
I live in the centre of Dartmouth with my husband John, who is a GP, and our daughters Jemima, seven-and-a-half, and Emily, six.
Can you tell us about your family?
I was born in Brisbane, Australia, and my upbringing was so safe – a lovely childhood, secure family and a huge safety net. For a time, when I was about three, my parents moved to London and we lived in Harrow. Up the road lived the Delia family, and their son John started school with my sister.
We moved back to Australia but our mums kept in touch with Christmas cards. When I eventually moved to London after university I got in touch again – and we’ve been together ever since. We have two wonderful daughters and they go to Blackawton School which is an absolutely fantastic place.
Jemima has Down’s syndrome and we chose the school because of its great experience in working with special needs children. She is totally accepted and they love school!
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
I did a fine arts foundation course at Totnes because I wanted something that would give me an outlet but not encroach too much on my girls. I’ve been painting ever since and I work out of a studio at the top of the town.
I’ve exhibited in Dartmouth and Dartington, and I have an exhibition at The Flavel this summer called Mapping Home. It’s all new work, looking at the relationship I have with the UK and with Australia.
Have you ever worked anywhere else?
When I left school I went to university to study architecture. I did three years but I didn’t complete the course for a number of reasons, went travelling, then returned to Australia to do a degree in fine art and graphic design.
Then the recession hit. I decided that if I was going to have to go to Sydney or Melbourne to look for work then I may as well go to London, so I lied to my parents (I really only had £100!) and set off. Putting myself in that ridiculous situation was the most challenging and best thing I had ever done, because my life had been so safe until then.
I needed to do something big and scary. When I landed in Heathrow with my backpack and portfolio it was a Monday morning – I knew no-one and had nowhere to go. So I had a coffee and looked through the Guardian creative jobs section and amazingly there was a job in an art and architectural publishing house.
I went straight to the company from the airport and the receptionist looked after my rucksack while I had my interview. I got the job and rented a terrible room in an awful house on the A40 West Way. It was April and freezing, and I had no money.
There were two other Australians working there who laughed at me turning up at work in all the clothes I owned. One lent me £1,000 and the other gave me an old coat – and I knew I’d be fine! I quickly became art director there and eventually production manager which involved a lot of travelling mainly in the Far East, dealing with the fund raising and budgets side of publishing.
Within six years of arriving on the plane I was the design director for Getty Images and ran two teams, one in Seattle and one in London. They were amazing times with website technology developing so quickly.
When the CEO left to set up a new company, Eyestorm.com, I went with him as creative marketing director. I worked seven days a week for months building the company and dealing with artists such as Damien Hirst and David Hockney. I handled press launches in London, Chicago, LA and Seattle. It was the biggest whirlwind and a wonderful exhausting time.
John and I were married by this time and had been working flat out for years. We decided something had to change and we searched for somewhere out of London and by the sea where we could settle. We found Dartmouth. Six months later I was pregnant with Jemima.
After I had the girls I worked for The Flavel as its first programme and marketing manager. It was great to be part of setting up something so important that I really believed in.
What is the best thing about your job?
Being an artist in residence has been a totally new experience for me. I’ve always worked with people and while I love painting, being in the studio can be very isolating. Going into the school has given me the opportunity to interact with some great kids - giving me as much as it’s giving them.
It is refreshing and I have had nothing but positive experiences with all the students. It is very rewarding when they all come to me with their ideas, and when I look up at break time to see 15 kids all wanting to work with me I know I have done something right!
For more information about Anna go to:
First published April 2010 By the Dart