In case you haven’t heard, the New South Wales government is in the process of a vigorous attack on education in this state. Judith Ridge has posted passionately and lucidly on the subject at Misrule (full disclosure: she says some nice things about me at the link, in the middle of much else). If you haven’t been noticing the headlines, you can catch up here.
Amid the carnage:
On September 11 the NSW government announced that it would stop funding art education in TAFE, leaving 4000 students without access to finishing their courses in 2013. TAFE Art courses are the main provider of art education in NSW, with many prominent artists getting their first ‘hands on’ training in TAFE. The withdrawal of funding will mean that only the wealthy will be able to afford private art education and NSW will suddenly find it no longer has emerging artists with skills coming through.
That’s right, art education in TAFE will no longer be funded as of 1 January next year. No transition – just a short sharp shock. It’s anyone’s guess what that will mean for people who started a year or two ago confident that the NSW government would honour its implied contract, let alone the hundreds of artists who survive thanks to part time or casual teaching. TAFE is of course the poor relation in art education: when the National Art School boasts of its many illustrious alumni, for example, it rarely mentions that most of them attended when the NAS was actually East Sydney Tech, part of the TAFE system. So art is vulnerable because of course the contribution that artists make to society is routinely rendered invisible, and art teaching at TAFE is double vulnerable because it doesn’t have prestige at the big end of town.
There’s an online petition at CommunityRun, which is the source of the quote above. Do have a look and, if you agree with its gist, sign it. Students at a number of TAFEs are organising, including St George, Nepean, Goulburn, Moss Vale, Meadowbank and Wollongong so far.
The Hungry for Art Festival has hardly finished attracting hundreds of people to The Gallery School at Meadowbank than the government announces it’s in effect closing the school down. (Because where will they find alternative funding in three months, and will the school still be public, affordable and accessible if they do?) The facebook page of FAIM (Fine Arts Inc Meadowbank) is humming.
As you might guess, the Art Student is in the thick of the campaign against the cuts. Among many other initiatives, it is the subject of the final printmaking project in her Advanced Diploma.
The project is inspired by the petition sent to the Pope by the House of Lords in 1530 pleading for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. That petition was displayed in Lux in Arcana, the exhibition of material from the Vatican Archives that we were lucky enough to see in July. As well as signatures, the petition boasted the seals of about a hundred lords and bishops hanging on leather thongs. The effect is impressive, but also beautiful.
The Art Student hopes to attract a similar number of artists to sign a petition (wording similar to the one at CommunityRun) and carve a small soapstone block with a symbol representing themselves that can be printed in sealing wax and hung from the petition. The art student will supply the soapstone, and the artists are welcome to keep the carving once the imprint has been made..
If you know any artists who might be interested, send them this way. My email is jonathan at shawryan dot id dot au.