At a time when universities are undergoing big changes, and it is widely predicted that the period following the economic crisis of 2008 will be a `lost decade' with no economic growth and few opportunities for a generation of artists the conference `Art in A Cold Climate' explored what is needed to place the region's art schools at the centre of a dynamic, sustainable cultural ecology.
Speakers were Professor Lynda Morris, Colin Greenslade, Mona Casey, and Hadrian Piggott.
Plenary sessions were lead by Deborah Kermode (Ikon) and Gavin Wade (Eastside Projects) and Sarah Shalgosky, Curator of the Mead Gallery, Warwick University.
Professor Lynda Morris, set up EASTinternational at Norwich School of Art in 1991 discussed the genesis of this open submission exhibition model which, in 2009 attracted entries from over 1100 artists in 30 different countries. She spoke of the continuing need for such a model - an exhibition that seeks to create a level playing field for international and London bases artists alongside artists from the UK regions. She also spoke of the need for a regional network to position itself politically, not only to influence policy but to encourage political engagement at the heart of art practice itself.
Colin Greenslade Director of the Royal Scottish Academy, spoke about initiatives to support artists early in their careers and the impact on their practice; the RSA Residencies Programme with partner organisations, travel awards, and RSA New Contemporaries.
Mona Casey,Lecturer, School of Art, BCU, Curator, and founder of SLICE re-examined the role of gallery spaces connected to art schools - as a site for learning, research, networking and engagement and the role of the art college in supporting the student through experimentation, discussion and engagement external to the University environment.
Hadrian Pigott An artist who lives and works in Cornwall and one of the key figures in the Falmouth Convention, discussed different ways of conceiving an artist’s practice in the region in which they live in a talk titled `So... are you still painting?'
Gavin Wade Director of Eastside Projects led the first plenary session with the question `How does research activity of an art college work as a nexus of national and international art practice?'
LM observed that an art college could only be as good as the quality of artists teaching in it. Today many in HE are facing the loss of colleagues on an unprecedented scale which not only undermines the strengths and confidence of an art college but increases the workload on those teaching.
Deborah Kermode Deputy Director of Ikon led the next plenary session asking how students in a transient community can instigate transformative change in a region, and how do we encourage students to stay? Delegates spoke of the need for greater coherence in support for artists, referring to the RSA as a good model.
Sarah Shalgosky Curator at the Mead Gallery, Warwick University, spoke of the need for HE institutions to work together. While there has been no mechanism for collaboration and networking of higher education institutions there was now an opportunity to join forces to support each other, students and staff.
Professor John Butler Head of the School of Art, BIAD, and Birmingham City University invited delegates and colleagues to meet on a regular basis in order to brainstorm achievable initiatives, to work towards achieving the coherence that is lacking in the region.
Several delegates working in higher education will meet early in 2012.