Two weeks ago (hot on the heels of Storm Jonas), at a dinner hosted by the University of Edinburgh’s North American Office at the Knickerbocker Club in New York, I was delighted to have the opportunity to share my sense of excitement at the enormous potential and energy which resides in our School at this crucial moment, five years after the merger of the schools of architecture, art and design at the former Edinburgh College of Art and the schools of architecture, history of art and music at the University in 2011. It seems apposite, as spring starts to send out early shoots over the Meadows, to re-boot this blog with some of the good news. Continue reading
Holidays in the Hebrides and the busy beginning of semester have rather limited time for the blog, but I return with a transcription of a position statement I delivered during the last week of the Edinburgh International Festival at the end of August at a discussion panel addressing the question of ‘soft power’ in contemporary Scotland. Chaired by my colleague Charlie Jeffery and including contributions by developmental linguist Antonella Sorace and think-tank consultant John Holden, it took place before last night’s momentous referendum vote, but it seems apposite to post it the day after. Continue reading
Yesterday I visited Hospitalfield and enjoyed the hospitality of its enlightened and energetic Director, Lucy Byatt. The historic house in Arbroath was originally founded in the 13th Century, and has been altered and changed by many of its occupants since then. In particular, by Patrick Allan-Fraser, and the family he married into. Continue reading
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.