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Hannah Aria

BA(Hons) Arts Practice, Class of 2018 and 2020

Hannah Aria

Hannah Aria

Sole Trader, Artist Aria

"My course was much more than the usual Fine Art course, I learned Academic writing, relationship-based practice, solution focussed-practice, Arts Council funding processes."

When I look where I've come from and see where life is taking me, it has been one heck of a ride. At age 16, I moved into The Foyer (Supported accommodation for homeless young people) but managed to get through GCSEs and A-levels despite a chaotic lifestyle. I was even accepted to University in Lancaster. A major curveball came my way when I found out I was pregnant at 18. I chose to have my son instead of going to Uni. I have always said that my children are my greatest achievements and this remains the case. I was a Youth Worker for many years finally signing up to the Social Work degree at UOS in 2013. I remember being so excited to learn but struggled with sitting still in lectures. I was quickly diagnosed with various learning difficulties like dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Irlen's Syndrome and eventually, ADHD. 

This came as quite a shock but explained a lot. Initially I felt like i was 'broken' or not good enough but after accessing the support I needed I came to understand that it was not an issue of IQ, but simply a processing difference. The test actually said my IQ was in the top 10% of the country which is something I cling to now. I completed the whole course but failed my final placement. They were concerned about the impact of my executive functioning difficulties on my ability to safely practice. I was devastated at the time but I would have struggled to safely manage large case-loads. I had learnt so much about myself and the world. It was like my eyes had been opened and I was hungry for more. My heart for social justice had been equipped with new knowledge and power to implement positive change. Concepts including sociology, psychology, legislation and practice-based learning took me to places I had never imagined possible. When it came to the Social Care system, I was a square peg in round hole. 

I started up as a Sole Trader in August 2018 as an Artist and exhibited widely. Art had always been a hobby prior to that, but something that I enjoyed immensely. During this time, I also went on to work as a Health Promotion Specialist with Terrence Higgins Trust. I loved it but the desire to complete a degree continued to weigh on my mind. In 2019, I saw the Arts Practice Progression Route course at Great Yarmouth Campus. I applied through clearing and was accepted due to my extensive exhibition experience. This felt like a total leap of faith. I was leaving a good job to do something that I knew I would love. I was able to work across both Campuses which was great for me and the staff and students were lovely. I began to thrive. With the right support in place, I was getting first class grades and was even given Arts Council England Emergency Funding in June 2020. I was commissioned by Arts La'Olam to deliver Art for Wellbeing Workshops online during the 2020 pandemic lockdown. I have my own YouTube Channel and website and am currently exhibiting at Firstsite, Colchester alongside Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas. If you had told me that a year ago, I would not have believed you. This course has shaped my practice significantly and made me more business minded. I had the artistic skills, but I needed to know how to build a viable business out of it. The Arts Practice course prepared me to do that.

My final dissertation answered the following question 'How can neurodivergent Artists Gain Equal Access to Arts Funding?' Since then Relationship Managers from Arts Council England have requested to read it. Stating that they could learn a lot from it. I am currently benefiting from professional mentoring support from Mercury Creatives and am applying for funding to continue the work of Creative Change Workshops. People say 'You only fail if you fail to learn'. I've learned a lot and every bit of it is applied to my current practice; promoting good mental health, advocating for reasonable adjustments and working in my zone of genius. In my dissertation acknowledgments I wrote 'better late than never' but now I would say 'perfect timing'. I have a photograph of me submitting my Social Work Dissertation outside the sign 'Doubt Kills More Dreams Than Failure Ever Will'. Looking back, it was a message I needed to hear. I am now a graduate with a First Class degree in Arts Practice.