Art Education: Interesting Histories and Alternative Futures

Thursday 13 June, 10.30-4.30pm, Martin Hall 1.17a/b

The history of art education is full of utopian visions and creative pedagogies that have proposed imaginative educational methodologies.  At a time when art education is under threat this symposium will celebrate and reflect on some of those histories and consider how they can be re-imagined in the current climate. 

Loughborough is an interesting context for this to take place because of its own interesting history.  The University was home to The Handicrafts Unit where Edward Barnsley and Peter Waals originated its Design School by training students to make items for use in all areas of the university  as well as having strong connections with Stewart Mason who is responsible for  its important campus sculpture collection and was pre-eminent as a champion for arts education.  Currently, Radar , our commissioning programme has invited artist Katerina Hruskova to work with Dr Sarah Mills, responding to the work of educationalist Marion Richardson.  


Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England

History into the Future

Prof Alison Yarrington, Professor of Art History, Loughborough University

Stewart Mason, Champion for Art Education       

Dr Alison Yarrington will discuss the educational and artistic significance of Stewart Mason, an advocate for arts education and key figure in the City Sculpture Project.    Stewart Mason created a retrospective golden age for art education. With the development of the new curriculum in the UK in the late 1900s, the encouraged appreciation of the arts was underscored in the reforming education of this period. Mason promoted the philosophy of education as the way teacher’s work with children, rather than what teachers teach children in the classroom. This new philosophy of education influenced schools, particularly those in Leicestershire, to focus on creativity and activity across the school curriculum in order for a child to create and grow individually. The exhibition of Mason’s profound collection of contemporary works in schools thus acted as a bond between academic subjects and visual creativity – an integral part of the general education which emphasizes the significance of creativity and art in the classroom.

Professor Matthew Cornford, University of Brighton and Professor John Beck, University of Westminster

John Beck and Matthew Cornford are currently working on a photographic survey of British art schools (or the sites upon which they stood). They are working region by region, researching the history of art schools and exhibiting the results. They completed work on the North West in 2018 and are working on an exhibition of West Midlands art schools to be exhibited at the New Art Gallery Walsall in 2020. In this talk they will explain the aims of their project and discuss the way their approach has allowed for a consideration of the relation between the history of art education and broader social and political issues related to, for example, urban planning, cultural politics and regional inequality.

Beck teaches literature and visual culture at the University of Westminster and has published widely on British and American literature, art and photography. Cornford is an artist and teaches on Fine Art Critical Practice at the University of Brighton. For twenty years Cornford and David Cross, as Cornford & Cross, realised a wide range of art projects in response to specific contexts and situations. A monograph on their work was published in 2009.

Dr Gillian Whiteley, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture, Loughborough University

Molecular moments: hopes for re-imagining artschools yet-to-come

 In Education through Art (1943) and other writings, Herbert Read (key figure in Society for Education through Art), was emphatic that the redemptive powers of education were the key to overcoming capitalism (Matt Adams,

‘Art, education, and revolution: Herbert Read and the reorientation of British anarchism’, History of European Ideas, 2012), with art playing a key role in bringing about ‘freedom’, a central tenet of his anarchist thinking. At a time of critical need to provide alternatives to universalising ‘authoritative factory models’ and ‘deterministic curricula’ (Robert Haworth, Anarchist Pedagogies, PM), Read’s notion of incremental disruption from within is pertinent. From the 1871 Paris Commune and Sixties’ artschool occupations to the Free University of Liverpool (2012), a performative art project inspired by the anarchist-libertarians of the city’s Modern Free School, this paper will present an idiosyncratic selection of molecular moments, anarchist pedagogies and other radical initiatives which have challenged hegemonic institutional structures with implications for re-thinking and re-imagining the artschool yet-to-come.

Emanuel Almborg, artist

Almborg will discuss his moving image-based art practice and that has developed through an engagement with pedagogical practices and philosophies of education and how this interest in filmmaking and pedagogy influence each other. His films often have an educational dimension in themselves as pedagogical tool and draw on research into the history of schools and institutions that examine the complicated and contradictory process of turning theory into practice. Almborg works in a wide range of media, primarily moving image. He finished the Whitney Independent Study program in New York, 2015 and is currently a PhD candidate at The Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm. His work has recently been shown at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Whitechapel Gallery, London, Cell Project Space, London and e-flux New York.



Carolina Rito, Head of Public Programmes and Research, Nottingham Contemporary

A CAMPUS to learn collectively                                                                                                        

In 2019, Nottingham Contemporary takes the centenary of the Bauhaus as a prompt to investigate the educational role of cultural organisations and take the space and time to experiment new models. Given the disinvestment in creative subjects in schools, cultural education and consequently creativity and critical thinking need to find new forums and space for refuge. CAMPUS invites colleagues and participants to join Nottingham Contemporary in asking questions about education, its role and legacies, as well as proposing and preforming new models.

Adam Sutherland, Director, Grizedale Arts

Adam Sutherland will talk about the model of the Mechanics Institute and it’s interpretation by Ruskin as a form of art and education in the everyday. Followed by a short explanation of Grizedale’s contemporary interpretation of that model and their International Valley school linking small communities managing similar issues in very different ways from Japan to Chicago.

Elspeth Mitchell, Research Associate in Practices and Theories of Feminism and Art at Loughborough University

Art School for Rebel Girls: Feminist pedagogies, practices and histories in Leeds  

Art School for Rebel Girls, was a project Mitchell developed and produced with Leeds-based arts organisation Pavilion in 2017. Inspired by Pavilion’s feminist beginnings as the UK’s first women’s photography centre founded in 1983 by graduates from the Department of Fine Art at the University of Leeds, which taught young women in its immediate community to make photographs at a time when the means of production was otherwise unavailable to them, Art School for Rebel Girls draws on feminist pedagogical practices for creative workshops for 13-15 year-old girls in two inner-city Leeds schools, leading to an intensive summer school bringing the girls together with other artists and curators, forming a collective inter-generational working group.

Creative Pedagogies in Context

Professor Hilary Robinson, Professor of Feminism, Art and Theory, Loughborough University

Women, Feminism, Art Schools: the UK experience

The relationship between women, feminism, and art schools is complex and geographically specific. Grounding the discussion in the specific history of the UK experience, and drawing upon a former experience as a Dean, this paper will move to explore the situation for women in art schools in the UK today.

Annie Davey, artist and lecturer, UCL Institute of Education

Risk and Security: from the welfare state to the neoliberal art school

The economisation of UK higher education has provoked great interest in the art school’s recent history. This has contributed to the emergence of a seductive – if reductive – imaginary of the art school as a place of rule breaking and risk taking. And yet often overlooked is the role played by the welfare state in creating the conditions in which risk taking, for many people, was possible. This talk will address how values and pedagogies travel through time. With an absence of social security outside the university, in what ways might looking back help us to re-think pedagogies, and the values that underpin them, within and against the neoliberal university today? Annie Davey is currently completing a PhD that examines the mobilisation of a radical art school in contemporary formations of art education under neoliberalism. 

Fay Nicolson, artist

Towards a Trans-aesthetic society!

‘Trans’ is a Latin word that means ‘over’, ‘across’ or ‘beyond’. ‘Aesthetic’ comes from the Greek ‘aisthēta’, meaning ‘perceptible things’. In Towards a Trans-aesthetic society! Fay will discuss her notion of the ‘trans-aesthetic’ in relation to the teaching of art, music and movement, touching on methods developed at Art and Design school, the Bauhaus (1919 – 1933) as well as Emile Dalcroze’s method of music education (c. 1910) and Jacques Lecoq’s approach to physical theatre (c. 1956-1999). Fay will draw connections between these aesthetic, sensual and physical approaches to ask how they could be of vital importance today. 

Fay Nicolson is an artist working across painting, printmaking and performance. Fay uses abstraction, pattern and motif to explore perception, transformation and the role of aesthetic understanding in pedagogy. Human gestures, in the form of movement, mark and voice, are used as materials. They are ‘trained’, manipulated and choreographed throughout her work. Fay is interested in the idea of ‘embodied knowledge’, especially in relation to performance, image making and the cultures surrounding educational structures.

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