Saturday, 15 February 2014


Poster by Richard Hollis


In July 1968 the National Conference on Art and Design Education [sponsored by the Movement for re-thinking Art and Design Education {MORADE}] asked itself 3 key questions:

1. Why art & design education?
2. What is a school of art?
3. How should art schools be organized?

The Conference soon found itself to be in agreement that the purpose of art & design education is to develop critical awareness,  to allow potentially creative people to develop their aptitudes, to encourage questioning and to stimulate discovery, and to promote creative behaviour. 

It was also generally agreed that this purpose could not be served except under conditions of freedom far greater than obtain at the present – freedom from external control by bodies unsympathetic to and uncomprehending of its purpose, freedom to select students without constraint by irrelevant criteria, freedom to develop courses without regard to inappropriately academic national standards, and freedom from inhibition by too rigid structures of internal control. 

The conference recognized the urgent need for reform by the immediate removal of some of  the impediments but it also recognized that reform in the longer  term would need much further study and might well involve the reorientation of art teaching throughout the educational system as a whole. Voices were not lacking to remind the Conference of the equal need for realism.

A recurrent theme was the relationship of ‘Art’ to ‘Society’ and,  therefore the role or roles – actual and potential – of the artist and designer today. A wide diversity of views was expressed from which it emerged that the need for solidarity in confronting a world unaware of art’s value or purposes outweighed the need that might arise for distinguishing differences of function and approach between say ‘artist’ and ‘designer’.

It was made apparent to the Conference, by the remarks of Sir John Summerson, that even within bodies nominally constituted to represent their views there is an alarming and – in the present situation – possibly crucial lack of fundamental understanding. It was agreed by the Conference, therefore, that a primary function of art and design education is the extension of understanding and that a world which does not know ‘what art is about’ will neither be able to use it rightly nor concede to it a proper status. In this ‘chicken & egg’ situation the need for internal reform is paramount and urgent.

Geoffrey Bocking.

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