DIY fine art degrees for cash-strapped artists

Lecturers aid students in ‘School of the Damned’

July 11, 2013

Academics have proved very willing to give their support to “an underground fine art MA” set up by students “as a pragmatic response to the current system, and as a protest against it”.

It all started with a discussion over social media. Fifteen young artists, all but one of whom had studied fine art at university, wanted to continue their art education but realised that they couldn’t afford the fees. The only option was to take matters into their own hands and set up the “School of the Damned”.

“It reflects a real urgency,” student Clare Rees-Hales said. “We are passionate about what we do but don’t have the luxury of pursuing the further education we wanted, so we’re doing it for ourselves without support.”

Since the end of last year, therefore, they have met for monthly one-day seminars on Sundays, where three students present their work for others to discuss and critique.

At least two academics also take part, while other scholars on a board of advisers suggest a text or theme for theoretical discussions on Tuesday evenings. The group has already mounted an interim exhibition.

Submitting their work to the scrutiny of academics and peers, Ms Rees-Hales said, was “very challenging to what we do, not a hand-holding exercise but a critical dialogue, and a good platform for helping us make more informed decisions about our practice”.

But how has the school been so successful in persuading what its website calls its “captured academic advisers” to get involved in a non-accredited course?

“Our undergraduates are burdened with debt and multiple jobs as they jostle for dwindling career opportunities with little time left for critical thinking and creative development,” said Pil and Galia Kollectiv, lecturers in fine art at the University of Reading.

“We continue to hope that such initiatives will not be necessary in the future, but as long as higher education continues to close its doors to all but the wealthiest, we will support them.”

At early meetings, however, the Kollectivs stressed that “there was no such thing as free education, and that if education was not state-funded it meant that the burden was being shifted from students to unpaid lecturers”.

“We were also worried that these so-called free initiatives would end up justifying the government’s decision to destroy state-funded avenues of social mobility like education.”

Such discussions led the school to institute a system of “labour exchange”, with each student giving a day of their time to edit videos or help out in studios as “payment” for lecturers’ involvement.

Jonathan Callan, an artist who has taught at a number of art schools and was a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art earlier this year, said he was happy to be a tutor, believing that the school offers something “very similar to the best aspects of what should be done in art schools, although it’s happening less and less”.

“The main thing you need is an environment for constructive in-depth discussion,” he said. “You can have great art schools without technical facilities, but you need staff with enough time to engage with each student’s work.”

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Registrar and University Secretary UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON
Deputy University Secretary UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON

Most Viewed

Most Commented

Artist Frank Boelter sitting in life-size paper boat

Creator of crowdfunding teaching tool says entrepreneurship courses should drop the traditional business plan as a method of assessment

Man photocopying a book

Students think it ‘unfair’ to be punished for unintentional plagiarism

Child drives miniature car into people

Smaller, newer alternative providers are less likely to pass higher education review, analysis says

to write students’ assessed essays in return for cash

Vic Boyd was on the lookout for academic writing opportunities. What she found was somewhat less appetising...

Students at a protest against Brexit in front of the Houses of Parliament, June 2016

YouthSight poll also finds that nearly one in five student Brexit supporters would now change their vote