‘I could go bankrupt’ - artist explores theme of student debt in exhibition

Hannah in a graduation gown holding up a sign that says 'poverty trap'

Artist Hannah Aria explores the idea of student debt in her latest art exhibition - Credit: John Ferguson

An artist based in Ipswich has spoken of the impact student debt has had on her life by exploring it in her latest exhibition. 

'Don’t put me in a box’ by Hannah Aria was shown in both Ipswich and Aldeburgh earlier this month. 

The 37-year-old, who graduated from the University of Suffolk as a mature student in 2020, is a successful artist and trustee of Unlimited - an art initiative programme commissioning artwork produced by disabled people.   

More recently she has been awarded £13,000 of the Developing Your Creative Practice grant through Arts Council England to help her grow as a creative. 

But despite this, Hannah feels that the student loan that she amassed while studying is still holding her back in some ways.

Hannah sitting on the curb holding a sign that says 'Game of Loans'

Hannah worked with award-winning photographer, John Ferguson - Credit: John Ferguson 

She said: “If you look at my website it looks like I’m this thriving artist doing international collaboration – like I’ve made it. And in a sense, I’ve achieved loads – I got a National Lottery grant of £27,000 last year to run YouTube workshops for art well-being.  

“But my big point is that we’re sold this lie that if you get an education, you can then afford to buy a house, a car, that education is this way out of debt but actually they keep moving the milestones. So even though I’m doing everything I can, I’m still being subsidised by Universal Credit. 

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“No matter how successful I am there’s always this looming debt and at any point I could go bankrupt.” 

Hannah went on to say that she hopes the government will do more to help prospective students and graduates in the future.  

“I think there is hope for people moving forward that the government could revert back to when we were under Labour where people had little to no tuition fees - it was a lot more manageable.  

"They could freeze the interest or put new legislation to bring the costs down – even if it was £3,000 instead of £9,000. It would make a massive difference.” 

To see more of Hannah's work see here.