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Ramblings on Green and Golden

One of the strands that came out of the symposium for me was the
tension between the traditional art school and the changing nature
of our times.
As per Matthew Cornfords talk, the idea of an Art School becoming
a set of luxury flats or a Morrisons car park made me think about
our dwindling high streets. Just as the Art schools have dwindled, so
have the public houses (Im not sure if this is entirely a
coincidence!), the local greengrocers and the fishmongers. Those
that have managed to survive have done so for a variety of reasons;
exceptional quality, the ability to diversify their offering, an intimate
connection to the local community; surely this is no different for the
Art School.
The decision to return to the title of Swansea College of Art is
indeed an interesting one and I question how important is it to
speak of tradition, heritage and endurance. What became apparent
throughout the day is that some held a romanticised view of the Art
School. This was emphasised when some speakers advocated the
importance of traditional drawing skills, yet others promoted the
importance of ideas and creativity.
For me, creativity sits at the heart of artistic learning, this can be
recognised by core traits such as wondering, questioning, exploring,
connecting, experimenting, reflecting, developing and collaborating.
The importance of drawing has always been sacrosanct in Art
education, but I really do question, for example, whether our sound
artist of tomorrow needs to have traditional drawing skills. With
that being said, I am confident that there are plenty of practitioners
that are capable of teaching drawing in an increasingly expanded
field.
Throughout the day, I was painfully reminded that Swansea College
of Art does not have a public facing gallery. I have no doubt that
part of the reason why so many other Art Schools have disappeared
is because there was a lack of understanding about what happened
behind closed doors. Whilst Swansea School of Art rightly celebrated
its work within the community, I was conscious of the fact that much
of it was aimed specifically at the art community or schools, rather
than the public more generally. The renaissance of taking the art
college and integrating it back into the community has some
distance to travel.
Catrin Websters idea of the train carriage as a mobile studio is an
interesting proposal; surely that really is the renaissance of
integrating art back into the community. It is curious to take this
idea for a walk; what does this look like on a larger scale? Should art

be taught using infrastructure that already exists or should it be


taught in sacred places known as Art Schools?
***
What is the cultural distance between Swansea and the Courtauld?
is a curious question; I was struck by its directness and call to
action. The idea of stickiness and the return to Swansea of some
very competent artists somehow seemed to feed into this question.
As an artist based in Swansea I am all too aware of the huge amount
of artistic activity that occurs within the city, however, I am also
conscious of how much is ephemeral and transient. I was pleased to
see that the symposium was being recorded; there is considerable
artistic activity in Swansea that is not. This lack of recording and
archive seems to diminish Swansea as a centre that has belief in its
artistic activities. The importance of records and archives, both
physically and increasingly digitally, are synonymous with cultural
place and positioning.
Returning to the analogy of the high street, it seems that Open
College of Arts is the internet based model, dare I say it, the
Amazon of the art education market; cheaper and more accessible
(although Im sure they pay their taxes). I am curious to know, if
anything, what is lost in the process with this Internet based
education model.
What is readily apparent is the stand alone Art School is directly
under threat of extinction, an endangered species. In order to
survive, it needs to follow the values it espouses; wondering,
questioning, exploring, connecting, experimenting, reflecting,
developing and collaborating. The outcome is not easily imagined
and unlikely to be a fixed place, model or destination.
However, as we lament the closure of our public houses, we could
perhaps celebrate the proliferation of our coffee shops. Times
change, a similar function under a different guise.
Although it is inevitable that Art School and art education will be
ever evolving and dynamic, it is unlikely that the principles
underpinning them will change; the questioning process, the
approach that will never be won, the search even though we may
never get there (as articulated by Osi Rhys Osmond). It is these
principles that form the basis of an art education and wherever they
travel, so does the Art School.
No further conclusions
Out quotes

New ideas need old buildings, old buildings need new ideas.

Beware of Nostalgia (created in response to Green and Golden


Symposium)