Q&A with Anita Taylor

We speak to the dean of the School of Art & Design, Bath Spa University. Plus the latest higher education appointments

November 7, 2013

This summer, Bath Spa University named Jerwood Drawing Prize director Anita Taylor as dean of the School of Art & Design.

Where and when were you born?
At home, beneath the last outcrop of the Pennines on the Cheshire/Staffordshire border, December 1961.

How has this shaped you?
Growing up in this rural setting as the youngest of four by some years, I populated my world through drawing and reading voraciously. Tempered by the rigours and delights of farming, the necessity for teamwork in harvesting and herding, and self-sufficiency in working the land, I formed an appetite to test parameters.

Describe your new job in 140 characters
Custodian of the academic portfolio in art and design education and research, the students, staff and resources of Bath School of Art & Design.

Why should we champion art and design education?
Visual language is a fundamental means of communication; and design is essential to the quality of being. Creativity, culture and the arts reflect and shape our values and contribute to the well-being of society, with art and design education a major catalyst for a vibrant creative economy.

How does your artistic practice feed into your research and teaching?
Drawing (and painting) provides a means to reflect, analyse, interpret and translate information, facilitating new insights and understanding in a range of ways. It informs the creation of meaningful interfaces between the professional worlds and the educational environments, and contributes to scholarly infrastructure through projects like the Jerwood Drawing Prize.

Have you had a eureka moment?
Yes. On my foundation course – that I could depict things [that] I couldn’t possibly say…

Tell us about someone you’ve always admired
Artemisia Gentileschi (the Italian Baroque painter) – admired for her breathtaking interpretation and progressive and spirited depiction of strong female subjects.

What are the best and worst things about your job?
The best: the people, and the situation, set within and among the most exquisite historic sites and linked to excellent museums that collectively provide an extraordinary and imaginative context for creative practice. The worst: catching up on new acronyms after four years of working in Australia.

What is an undergraduate degree worth?
Inestimable – as a transformational experience that forges a personal platform of skills and understanding for the future.

What keeps you awake at night?
Keeping in touch with Australian friends and loved ones.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
With no chronology or consistency, this switched on a regular basis, but at various times included vet, singer, dancer and hairdresser.

Tell us about a piece of art that you love
The drawings of Käthe Kollwitz, which have long been an influence or reference point, as works that ultimately document, bare, scrutinise and expose the human condition. Also the enigmatic Dame à la Licorne tapestries in the Cluny in Paris, with their islands of reverie and images of dual realities.

Who from history would you most liked to have met?
Frida Kahlo.

Formaldehyde shark or Leonardo da Vinci drawings?
Incommensurate: different times and different moments.

What is it like to be your own model?
The defining acts of scrutiny, gaze and feeling embodied through the act of drawing seek to identify and visualise the relationships between what is seen, what is felt, and what we expect to see. This discloses an inherent paradox as the mind reveals the form it inhabits.

What’s your biggest regret?
Too much time at a computer.



Kingston University and St George’s, University of London have made two appointments in the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education (a partnership between the two institutions) and have promoted a third academic to the title of professor. Jan Fook and Scott Reeves have joined as professor of critical reflection and professor of interprofessional research, respectively, while Jane Lindsay has been made professor of social work practice.

Juliana Sissons, a fashion knitwear designer and academic, has joined Nottingham Trent University as a fashion knitwear lecturer. Her current research explores how pattern cutters and cosmetic surgeons can transfer and exchange skills and techniques to improve their practices.

Liverpool Hope University has appointed Russia specialist Christopher Williams to a chair in modern history. He joins from the University of Central Lancashire.

The University of Abertay Dundee has named Susan Campbell, currently head of student administration at the University of Stirling, its new registrar. Ms Campbell will take up the post in January.

Fiona Cownie has been appointed pro vice-chancellor (education and student experience) at Keele University. She has held a chair in law at Keele since 2006.

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