Time for research

"British Design: Tradition and Modernity after 1948" cover

“British Design” cover

A number of personal research projects of mine have culminated in publication this autumn.

British Design: Tradition and Modernity after 1948 marks the end of a project that began with my co-curation of the British Design: Innovation in the Modern Age exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2012.

The exhibition raised many questions about the particular relationship between place, time and space that characterises much of the UK’s design culture, and a conference during the exhibition’s run produced the chapters in this book. Continue reading

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Edinburgh International Culture Summit

Scottish Parliament, image by Kieran Lynam (bit.ly/scottishparliamentimage), used under a Creative Commons license

Scottish Parliament, image by Kieran Lynam (bit.ly/scottishparliamentimage), used under a Creative Commons license

For the past three days I have been attending the 2014 Edinburgh International Culture Summit, “Culture – A Currency of Trust” at the Scottish Parliament. I left the summit this morning feeling both a sense of loss (that the community that had evolved throughout the summit’s duration was disbanding) and a sense of hope and purpose. Continue reading

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Mary & Elizabeth in Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens. Image by Bernt Rostad (http://bit.ly/princesstreetgardens), used under a Creative Commons license.

Princes Street Gardens. Image by Bernt Rostad (bit.ly/princesstreetgardens), used under a Creative Commons license.

Last night was the opening of the 2014 Edinburgh Art Festival, marked by a welcome dinner for participating artists from across the Commonwealth at the National Galleries of Scotland on the Mound.

As a prelude to the dinner, guests were invited to engage with Jacqueline Donachie’s intriguing installation ‘Mary and Elizabeth’ in Princes Street Gardens. Continue reading

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Scottish Colourists and Miss Jean Brodie

People and Sails by JD Fergusson. Artwork in the public domain.

“People and Sails” by JD Fergusson. Artwork in the public domain.

I read two interesting articles in this weekend’s newspapers: in the Financial Times there was a review of the exhibition of JD Fergusson’s paintings at Chichester’s fantastic Pallant House Gallery, and in the Guardian there was a recollection by Penelope Jardine of her life in Italy with novelist Muriel Spark, written to coincide with a new collection of essays by Spark (The Golden Fleece), edited by Jardine. Reading these in tandem, in an Edinburgh made even more beautiful than usual by uncharacteristic unbroken sunshine, brought home to me the very particular character of a city that I have only called home for three years, but which is increasingly opening up its reticent personality to me in the manner of a slowly developing friendship. Continue reading

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Welcome

Welcome to Art School Head, a blog that reflects on all things Art School and particularly on all things Edinburgh College of Art (ECA). It seems a timely moment to start writing about the culture of Art School life.

The College is just celebrating the third anniversary of its merger with the University of Edinburgh in 2011 and last week the Scottish Funding Council made its formal report on the merger’s progress to Michael Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

A key line in the report suggested that ‘the identity, ethos, pedagogy, and studio-based culture of the former ECA…has demonstrated a new dynamism and energy’, and that the Funding Council team had ‘identified a sense of excitement and anticipation at the opportunities for collaboration and interdisciplinary working made possible by the merger – a characteristic that increasingly defines the ‘new’ ECA.’

So what is the identity, ethos and culture of ECA now, in its post-merger situation? And how does it relate to the life of the university, the city, the country and the creative network of individuals and institutions that we interact with across the world? In a broader sense, what does it mean to work and practice in an Art School in the early twenty-first century?

I’m privileged to hold the office of Principal of ECA, which provides me with the ideal position from which to reflect on some of these questions, to comment on some of the challenges and to record the very distinctive developments and events that fill our working days. I engage with colleagues and students across our five schools of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Art, Design, History of Art and the Reid School of Music, and with other schools and colleges across the University of Edinburgh.

I represent ECA as it works with Edinburgh’s many galleries, museums, orchestras, festivals and other cultural organisations. And I travel to support partnerships in the UK and elsewhere.

As this blog develops I hope we can generate some dialogue that makes sense of that experience (its everyday rhythms and more spectacular happenings) and enriches the special environment that us Art School people are lucky enough to inhabit.

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