The politics and provision of art education after 1970
This exhibition is a reflection on the recent staff cuts to Brighton University, particularly within the arts and humanities. The Brighton Polytechnic signage relates to a period of change in the university’s history. The windows feature drawings of Brighton’s purpose-built art school – imagined in the 1930s, built in the late 1960s and still in use today. Also on display are discarded objects picked up from the streets of Brighton.
The Victorian School of Art, built on Grand Parade was demolished in the late 1960s. In its place, a bright, modern, International Style art school was built. This new build was part of change taking place all over the country to meet the demands of a new policy of post-secondary art education, fit for a rapidly modernising culture and society. The art school was occupied by students in 1968 who demanded discussions with staff and director about the curriculum, the relevance of art history and the desire to open the art school to the wider community in Brighton. Evidence suggests these discussions had impact – revitalising art history and studio pathways and making the proposed ground floor of the building – with gallery and theatre, open to the public.
The completed building opened in 1970 at the same time the art school was incorporated into a new polytechnic. This was national shift in the provision of public education, and at the time, the merging of the art school into Brighton Polytechnic was keenly opposed, being seen as an imposition from on high. A fierce debate raged nationally about the ‘end of art schools’. In 1992, all polytechnics were renamed universities, though their public origins, demographics and range of courses made them quite different. In 2012 another big shift saw the introduction of loans instead of grants and fees instead of public funding for study.
Looking back, despite the polytechnic curtailing the original art school’s authority and autonomy, the following decades of its existence were fruitful and well-resourced. However, this merger enabled a different type of institution to develop. A hierarchy came into force, bringing with it a management structure that spanned different types of learning and outcomes. This brought with it tensions around artistic freedom and purpose – put on a balance sheet in comparison to the teaching of vocational and technical skills. The last decade has seen great pressure on resources and staffing in the school of art.
The building still stands, on the site of the first Brighton School of Art, a stone’s throw from the Pavilion and museum, as testament to the provision of public education in arts and culture.
This exhibition is curated and produced by Naomi Salaman with Sophie Gibson and Ash Faers. Signage by Luśka Mengam.
More information on the history of Brighton school of art from Art and Design at Brighton, Jonathan Woodham, Philippa Lyon (2009)
The history of arts education in Brighton. https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/artsbrighton/
The Victorian Age to the 20th Century https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/artsbrighton/2009/07/11/brighton-school-of-art-victorian-age-to-the-twentieth-century/
Brighton College of Art in the 1960’s https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/artsbrighton/2009/07/03/brighton-college-of-art-in-the-1960s/
More information on the artists
Naomi Salaman is an artist who set up the Sweetshop window gallery in 2017. She has taught Fine Art at University of Brighton since the mid 1990’s, and has shown and published her own work and co-organised art projects since then. Recently she has written a reflective piece on her work organising the Sweetshop windows, which you can access here. (coming)
Sophie Gibson works as a graphic designer and uses drawing to plot and plan projects. She has extended this out to work on larger scale drawings and installations since 2017.
Ash Faers is a recent Graduate of Fine Art University of Brighton (2022). She is working on a PGCE in art, and has just completed an artist’s residency at Glyndebourne Opera.
‘In recent years, my practice of collecting objects has grown and developed from pebbles and plastics on the beach to other public spaces. I see the world in small details; I notice all the bits and bobs on the floor around me. My eyes trace the ground for something interesting as I walk, noticing patterns in the objects I see again and again. My collections and assemblages of found objects reveal realities of our environment at present, questions about the objects’ pasts, and our future. Presenting some of the strangeness of human nature in a rich tapestry of small and mundane things people lose or leave behind, a material reflection of the world around us.’ Ash Faers September 2023
Press about the cuts to the arts and art education;
The Argus on the closing of the CCA Brighton
The Art Newspaper on the cuts to art education in schools
The Observer Matthew Cornford and John Beck on the Art Schools in The Observer here
Art Monthly Art historian and critic Sarah James writes on cuts to art education in Art Monthly here ;
Journal of Visual Culture April 2012, vol 11 The art school in ruins Matthew Cornford, John Beck
Journal of Visual Arts Practice May 2015, vol14(2) Art Theory, Handmaiden of neoliberalism? Naomi Salaman
Advocacy for the arts
Local organisation against cuts to arts funding, offering events and advocacy
Cultural Learning Alliance
National organisation that campaigns against the cuts to art education in schools.
Cultural Learning Alliance from their website;
The Cultural Learning Alliance champions a right to arts and culture for every child.
- ADVOCATE for equality of access to arts and culture for every child
- DEMONSTRATE why cultural learning is so important
- UNITE the education, youth and cultural sectors delivering arts and cultural learning
We do this through:
- Policy analysis and evidence gathering
- Dissemination of advocacy materials, including briefing papers, evidence and statistics
- Lobbying and advocacy
- Building strategic relationships across arts, culture, education and policy, and supporting our members
Association for Art History www.forarthistory.org.uk
The UK subject association for art history, committed to promoting the value of art history and visual culture for all.
Celebrates and promotes art history and visual culture, through advocacy, events, networks, membership, grants and publications and works with the education and cultural sectors to help ensure that art history continues to be supported, understood and enjoyed.