In June 2008 I collaborated with final year BA Fine Art student Jade Richardson in organising What Price Autonomy?, a symposium exploring the implications of the rearrangement of the Sheffield art school and similar national education reforms on the future of academic and professional arts practices.
Founded in 1843 as the Sheffield School of Art, the Fine Art Department at Sheffield Hallam University is one of the oldest art institutions in the UK. Corresponding with recent trends in UK art education in which many specialist academies are increasingly consumed by the universities with which they have merged, the closure of Psalter Lane, the current Sheffield art school faculty is imminent.
This relocation provided a timely juncture to revisit some of the issues that forty years ago in 1968 gave rise to a series of student uprisings and dissenting movements throughout the UK, including the Movement for Rethinking Art and Design Education (MORADE). More recently made prominent by the debate surrounding the proposed relocation of Dartington College of Arts, the issues surrounding the rearrangement of the Sheffield art school are of acute local and national significance.
The crucial autonomy and independence of many art schools is being diminished as they increasingly operate under the decree of the university. Many historic art schools are being stripped and sold as assets to be privately redeveloped as higher education is increasingly being funded by business partnerships with models of value based on economic factors and short term finances.
- JJ Charlesworth who has written extensively on art school autonomy
- Bryan Davies, contributor to Protoacademy, a collaborative project, based on graduate peer-led models for learning in fine art
- Hester Reeve introducing the relocation of the art school in relation to the function of the artist studio
- Jade Richardson, artist talk drawing links between situation, location and her practice as an art student
Chaired by Becky Shaw.
Press: Art Monthly's response to this symposium
Art Monthly archive from the 2008 debate on art education
Read Bryan Davies' comments on the event
The Last Hurrah 2008 Sheffield Hallam University degree show