We’ve had a wonderful day. It has been such a positive symposium. This is a magnificent attendance and we would like to thank all delegates for their enthusiasm and contribution to the days debates. We have had a huge range of papers and the engagement in each session suggests that this is activity that we need to repeat and sustain year on year. I now know quite a bit of what I didn’t know I don’t know, and I definitely want to find out more.
Thankfully, all of the abstracts are posted on-line on the NAFAE web-site, so conversation and exchange can continue and people can find one another through their practice and research interests. We do need to keep this network active and growing. It is important to remind everyone that this is a member’s network and that we welcome new members and fresh input. We have a strong and vibrant steering Association but we are always keen to grow and to extend debate in the best interests of Fine Art Education nationally.
We have to give special thanks to Laura Harrison and to Andy Sheridan. No event of this nature can succeed without the dedication of key individuals. Today’s organization has been flawless and great fun and we owe all of that to Laura and Andy. Thanks to our hosts at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts. Professor Robert Williams has put really energy and imagination into creating an event in Lancaster that sets a benchmark for future years. We would like to that Roddy Hunter, the Director of the Institute, and Professor Diane Cox, Director of the Research and Graduate School, for the support and generosity. Of course, thanks also to the NAFAE steering group, steadfast and reliable enthusiasts who will pursue almost any lost cause and turn it into an act of creation.
We were extremely fortunate to have Professor Anne Douglas from Grays School of Art throughout today and for Saturday’s trip to the Merz Barn. Anne managed to capture the core purpose of our symposium; indeed each of our symposia. This one, the one at London Met in 2015, and our certain commitment to our next one in 2017, proposed to take place at Wolverhampton. Quite early in her keynote she talked about “our way of knowing”, or our ways of knowing; she outlined the proposition that practitioners in the Fine Arts are open to possibilities and for different procedures and sensory engagements for dealing with and encountering the world.
She referenced Hannah Arendt and one of her many, very beautiful quotes, this one from 1953; “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough”. She talked about this in reference to a specific crisis affecting education and the educational offer. We are reminded that we are in a type of crisis all of the time; we are responsible for the urgency of Fine Art education and for it’s constant evolution. But we have a particular crisis right now in the way that the Arts are being redacted from School curriculum and transduced within our culture to mere economics. What makes this crisis so hard to comprehend is that it origins and its causes have been produced by educated people; by politicians and the politically powerful who have had all of the privileges and rights afforded by a complete education and are now at pains to withdraw the rights of others.
Whist we celebrate the right to education and expound the benefits and humanity that education can foster, we have to remember that educated people are causing our current crisis. It is educated people who have taken us to the brink of Brexit; the same people took us through a thoroughly (socially) corrupting referendum based on a singularly facile provocation. The same people are relentlessly pursuing and incentivizing the marketization of Higher Education with no obvious purpose other than privatization. They have and continue to privatize huge swathes of our national health service and other public services as a process of denuding the poor of resources simply so that they can feed the greedy. They have introduced the ill conceived Work Programme to devastating effect, arguably leading to increased mortality rates through suicides. They forced through the Bedroom Tax in full knowledge of the obscene impacts of such a policy on those who can least afford austerity. The same politicians, supported and instructed by their mogul media paymasters, ritually demonize migrants and those seeking sanctuary; a community who rarely are provided with a public voice or recourse to expression.
And, of course, these same people, our political class, are dismantling whatever there was for Arts education in Schools and are disestablishing access to the arts and support for the arts in community settings; and all because? Silence, there is no because….other than they have ceased to care whether we love the world enough. These are people who have had the benefits and privileges of a liberal and vaguely inclusive system of education; they have had what they need. We currently find ourselves in a culture where education has encouraged or even motivated some people to love themselves rather than the world.
This is a crisis alright; but we cannot blame it all on a policy environment bereft of humanity or progressive ideas. We have to engage. We have to know why we care. We have to know why it is that we would want our future students and artists to “love the world enough”.
This is a big, dare I say, strategic question. And, it leads to more detailed questions, such as: Who is it for? What might it be about? What is its proximity? As such, we are left questioning the very notion of cultural production and cultural consumption; how it is experienced and how it is valued.
- What is the geographic component of cultural practice?
- What are the political dynamics and what is the power distribution of cultural production in all of its many forms?
- What is the relative value of (a) cultural contribution?
- What do cultural resources look and feel like (education being one of them)?
- How does representation filter into and through cultural production to reflect integrity or truth?
- How is agency and civil democracy accessed and enacted for the sake of continuing (or new) cultural production?
These are all questions that have been touched upon or scrutinized or deconstructed or tested throughout the research network symposium. This is why we need to debate, discuss and encourage research practices within our domain of the Fine Arts. It is why we need to unpick the essential components of the Fine Arts, contemporarily, as both cultural force and enacted politics.
Basically, we need to know "why" and "how", rather than “whether”, we could love the world enough, and we need to permanently refresh (or innovate) in the process of forming attitudes towards Fine Art Education so that it is relevant and might apply to all or be discovered by anyone. Our “because” is that we need to offer resistance to the wider crisis in humanity that is dividing our communities, our neighbourhoods, our ethnicities, and our moral visions. We need to ensure that cultural production and consumption can be experienced as a democratic right.
We need to nurture and value difference, and divergencies, and not knowing, and sensory wisdom, and we need to question definitive solutions or reductive or fixed regulatory beliefs.
Our priority must be to embrace ‘crisis’ in whatever form because it is our starting point and because there are others across society, powerful and influential people, who seek to solve a crisis rather than challenge its viability.
In short, politicians can fuck right off!
Fine Art (Arts) education is for everyone. It is a democratic right. Equality of access is a measure of the quality of our democracy. That means that our job as a research, practice, and teaching community, is to worry what that means and how it can be enacted.
So we look forward to worrying about it again and often and to acting on our words. We keep going. We meet again, and again. We build a stronger network. We build allegiances. We encourage others. We advocate for the arts. We promote our ways of knowing. And we discover whether we can love the world enough.
Professor Paul Haywood