Short shrift

November 17, 1995

Clare Short's dialogues with academics will strike many as a welcome sign of possible change (THES, November 10).

If this approach is more generally adopted, we may yet be spared the type of myopic thinking recently demonstrated by Virginia Bottomley. For a heritage minister to express surprise at being asked to consider the contribution of Frank Pick and Lord Ashfield to design for London Transport - "these are matters for the Department of Transport" - demonstrates both an astonishingly shallow conception of cultural responsibility and a complete lack of understanding of the relationship of art and design.

The art and design sector of higher education goes to considerable lengths to ensure, through the Council of Subject Associations in Art and Design (CoSAAD), that dialogue between subject associations is maintained, policy on art and design education debated, and wider contexts explored. This work is for the most part studiously ignored by politicians.

Consequently, we need rather more than a heritage minister who knows "her Degas from her Watteau". Until Clare Short's approach is seen as a necessary component of democratic consultation, myopic political agendas will continue to be built on the narrowest of visions.

Iain Biggs

President, Council of Subject Associations in Art and Design

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