Meet the Lecturer...Vivian Ross-Smith

Vivian Ross-Smith is an artist who grew up on Fair Isle and lectures in Creative Industries and Community Learning here at Shetland College UHI. In the first of our "Meet the Lecturer" series, we sat down with Vivian to learn more about the Fine Art degree course and why Vivian enjoys teaching at Shetland College UHI.

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Vivian Ross-Smith

What courses do you teach in?

I am predominantly a Creative Industries lecturer, teaching into the Fine Art and Contemporary Textiles degree courses. In addition to this, I feed into learning disabilities art classes for Community Learning. I enjoy working collaboratively with other teaching staff and with students of varying levels.


Information on BA(Hons) Fine Art

How can students study Fine Art?

Full-Time and Part-Time.


Why should students choose Shetland College UHI ?

As a place to study Fine Art, Shetland offers endless resources to draw upon and has an active art and design scene. We are delighted to now be in the third teaching year of our new Fine Art degree course, which sits alongside our already well-established Contemporary Textiles programme.

Students are given their own studio space to work from and are introduced to specialist equipment to ensure their ideas can be successfully materialised. Compared to larger art schools, at Shetland College UHI, we have small class sizes meaning lecturers have the luxury of spending regular one to one time with students, allowing full support and guidance when developing and realising artworks. As a lecturer and practicing artist, I really appreciate this time working directly with students, sharing my skills and experience.


Why should people take up this course?

If you are looking to develop your practical and conceptual skills whilst constructively challenging your understanding of fine art, studying on the Fine Art degree course would be well suited to you. Whilst the successful development of a creative practice is the focus, critical discussion underpins the degree programme. This allows lecturers to guide students by supportively questioning the development of their art practice. Through a range of modules, we support students to explore new working methodologies and develop a strong professional practice.

Fine Art students also have the opportunity to work alongside Contemporary Textiles learners, which means a wider range of experience to inform group work and opens up potential for collaboration.


Support services and extra-curriculum activities

How would you explain the style of teaching and the support students receive from tutors and lecturers?

You’ll be taught by a highly-experienced team of visual practitioners, who will support you to explore and experiment with a range of fine art media such as painting, digital imaging, photography, drawing, spatial studies and printmaking. You will also have support from academics who will help you to write about your own practice and the work of other artists.

As you progress on the course, lecturers will support you to develop your own area of personal interest, which you will explore through tutorials, workshops, lectures and self-directed study.


Have your students undertaken any student placements? 

We provide opportunities for students to work in collaboration with local organisations throughout the course. For example in first year, during ‘Spatial Practices’ students respond to a public site, which in recent years has been the Hay’s Dock area of Shetland Museum and Archives.

Within ‘Professional Practice’, students work alongside Contemporary Textiles students to undertake a residency-like experience with Jamieson and Smith Wool Brokers before proposing and making their creative response.

Throughout the course, we aim to expose students to different professional art contexts as well as support them to gain an understanding of the wider creative industries. All of which adds to a bank of experience they can call upon after graduation.


Future plans and directions

How do you feel studying Fine Art will help people in their career progression?

On completion of the course, students will have developed the skills needed to maintain a professional art practice. Students will gain an understanding of contemporary fine art that lends itself to working in a variety of creative industries and within work roles where both practical skill and creative thinking processes are valued.

For me personally, studying for a degree in Fine Art completely challenged my understanding of art, it developed my ability to critically engage with ideas and gave me the confidence to question both the visual and conceptual art world. I now see my students going through this exact process, which solidifies my opinion of Fine Art being an incredibly worthy area of study.


What advice would you give to those considering studying?

Being an art student allows for a focussed time of exploration and questioning. Working within a cohort of students in the melting pot of an art studio makes for a distinctive and exciting place to share ideas. I suggest all students considering studying art approach it with an open mind and a willingness to push themselves outside of their comfort zone. Students should deliberate what they want to get out of the course, but be willing to accept and explore the unknown too. Art practices are living things; they change, adapt and grow with the artist. Art is a lifelong venture and studying is the first step.


And finally...

What are your favourite things about the university? 

We have fantastic facilities at Shetland College for our Creative Industries students. In addition to designated studio spaces overlooking the Lerwick harbour, students have access to etching, aquatint and screen-printing facilities, as well as domestic, V-bed and Shima knitting machines and a variety of looms. These workshop facilities are managed by four excellent technicians who go above and beyond to support students realise their work.


Best thing about living in the Highlands and Islands?

Within my personal art practice, I draw from the islands I spend time on, using adapted island imagery to communicate craft, skill, isolation, commitment to place and community. My childhood growing up on Fair Isle, and my later life choosing to return to Shetland to live, completely influences and shapes the work I make.

My practice combines painting, textiles and sculpture and through these mediums I aim to merge the boundaries between Fine Art and Craft.

I am interested in working from Shetland and encouraging other artists to do the same in an effort to highlight Shetland as a place of contemporary fine art significance.


Thank you Vivian for filling us in on all things Fine Art! 


For more information:

Fine Art degree course page

Fine Art degree Instagram 

Contemporary Textiles course page

Contemporary Textiles Instagram


Vivian's contact email at the college is