September brings with it the back to school season, and in honor of that, we’re presenting a new installment in our Spotlight on Education Series. For newer members; our Spotlight profiles are a series of articles highlighting educational opportunities for training as a Scenic Artist. Some of these programs offer graduate degrees in Scenic Art, while others are certificate and training programs.

For today’s Spotlight, we’re visiting the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which offers a BA in Production Arts and Design. To get a sense of their program, we spoke with Gary Fry, one of the program’s faculty.

Can you give us a brief rundown of your program?

At the Royal Conservatoire, we strive to give students a learning environment as close to the professional world as possible. This means hands-on learning on realized productions. Applicants identify a Major area of study at interview stage from the disciplines of Set and Costume Design, Construction, Scenic Art, Props and Costume Construction.

In Level 1, Scenic Art students are introduced to the fundamentals of drawing, paint chemistry, color mixing, and paint application. They then rotate briefly through the other four disciplines to grow an appreciation of the work of their peers and to learn how to communicate effectively across disciplines. After the rotations, they then join the Scenic Department as a junior member of the team, assisting on the productions.

In Level 2, they act as assistants in realizing designs, augmenting the learning from the previous year. They are given more autonomy and responsibility, working alongside their peers and staff in the Scenic Department.

In Level 3, they cement their liasing by opting to be in charge of the whole scenic team.  They will attend production meetings, produce costings and schedules, liaison with other department heads and work closely with their designer producing samples and controlling every aspect of the painting process. Level 3 also allows students to follow their own bespoke pathway using personal projects, work placements, and the development of their online portfolio and CV to ready themselves for the workplace.

Throughout the courses, personal projects compliment the production work, allowing students to further hone their skills. These cover topics like trompe l’oeil, stained glass, texturing, faux finishes, skies, perspective, texture, portraiture, ornamentation, etc.

The overall goal is to train students in production practices, terminologies, materials, and techniques in order that they can become a valuable member of any professional paint shop. It also aims to have every student leave with an extensive portfolio of work highlighting their range of skills in order for employers to gauge their suitability for roles.

What is unique about the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, compared to other programs?

We enjoy the unique position in the UK of having a range of hugely diverse disciplines under one roof. This means our students get to collaborate with the other programs within the Conservatoire: Drama, Opera, Musical Theatre, Contemporary Production Practice, Screen, and Ballet. The Scenic Artists get to experience the different approaches designers take and challenges associated with these different genres.

We expect our students to be inquisitive, bold and have a passion for the performing arts. Students come from all backgrounds and are of all ages; some have had limited experience of Scenic Art others are coming from a fine art path. As the course is a practical one, someone who is driven, a problem solver, and an artist at heart would excel.

Destinations for our students are as varied as the students themselves. Currently, we have graduates working in theatre, opera, film, and television both locally and internationally, themed events, escape rooms, and cruise ships.

Program Accreditation

We offer a BA in Production Arts and Design. Our undergraduate degree focuses on the practical with no requirement to study English, Maths, History, or Languages. As a result, our graduates find entry-level professional jobs immediately after graduation. We require one afternoon a week of cross-discipline study where students travel to another area within the Conservatoire. The classes offered range from BSL, directing, film production, drawing, history of art, music, and dance.


The Scenic Department has four students per year and two full-time staff members. This makes for a very close-knit and supportive learning environment.

Lecturer: Gary Fry

Gary has been a professional Scenic Artist for nearly 30 years. He has worked in Drama, Musical Theatre, Opera, Ballet, Film, Theme Parks, Events and Education and has been fortunate enough to work in the UK, Dubai, Hong Kong, and China.


Tutor: Scott Macintosh

Scott has been the Scenic Art Tutor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland since 2014.  He also trained as a Scenic Artist at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Upon graduating, he moved to London to work for the Royal Opera House, Souvenir Scenic Studios, and other various productions for the Royal Court Theatre and Alexander McQueen’s Paris and London fashion week runways. His Scotland credits include The Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Opera and the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh.

Tuition Costs, Housing, and Length of Program

The course is a three-year undergraduate program.

Our tuition fees as of 2019/20 are £16,827 per year for International students (approximately $22,000 USD.) Scholarships are available; more information on these can be found online, here: href=””>

International and Student Experience team:

In regards to general expenses, we would recommend allowing between approximately £10,000–£12,000 for an individual student per year. If you require a Tier 4 (General) visa you will have had to evidence possession of at least £9135.00 (approx. $12,000 USD) for maintenance as part of the visa application.

All photos were courtesy of Gary Fry and the RSC.

To visit other programs in our series, check out our other Spotlight articles;

Spotlight on Education: Cobalt Studios

Spotlight on Education: Boston University

Spotlight on Education; Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Spotlight on Education: UNCSA and Julliard

Spotlight on Education: The Studio Forum of Scenic Arts


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