John Beck and Matthew Cornford: The Art Schools of the East Midlands
Aphotographic exhibition focusing on the region’s art schools, and the vital role that they play in the cultural life of our cities.
This exhibition is the latest iteration of John Beck and Matthew Cornford’s ambitious Art School Project, to track down and document all of the UK’s art schools – including the iconic Waverley building at Nottingham Trent University.
Featuring new photographic work depicting all the art school buildings of the East Midlands, or the sites upon which they stood, the exhibition raises questions about the role of the arts in relation to education, community and history and offers a space to reflect on what the future may hold for cultural institutions in our towns and cities.
There will also be a programme of public events exploring the themes of the exhibition, that will be announced soon. In our foyer space, our Vitrines exhibition, Art [School] Histories will present materials dedicated to the history and future of the Nottingham School of Art & Design here at NTU.
Come along to our launch night on Thursday 21 September, 6 pm – 8 pm for a first look round the exhibition. Book your free tickets
The twin Victorian engines of industrial ambition and social reform powered the British art school system, set up to deliver a skilled labour force for local industry – such as lace manufacture in Nottingham the few original art school buildings still actively used for teaching art and much needed educational opportunities to the newly enfranchised working class. Art schools combined practical training and exposure to culture, turning out skilled producers and discerning consumers well into the twentieth century.
By the mid-1960s there were still over 150 art schools in the UK, and ‘art school’ became a journalistic shorthand for creative innovation across arts, design, music and advertising. Yet at the peak of their influence on British cultural life, art schools in many towns and cities were already being amalgamated, reorganised and rebranded as part of a drive to reshape education in the arts. Most art schools have long since been absorbed into larger institutions or faded away.
Bonington Gallery’s presentation focuses on the art schools of the East Midlands and features original photographic images of all the region’s art school buildings alongside displays of archival material. The striking grandeur of Derby School of Art’s Gothic Revival building currently stands empty, whilst the Waverley Building, home to the Nottingham School of Art & Design, remains one of the few original art school buildings still actively used for teaching art – as part of Nottingham Trent University. The project is also, importantly, an investigation of our present moment, documenting the sites of former art schools which have been redeveloped or reused.
John Beck and Matthew Cornford studied at Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design (now social housing) in the early 1980s and have served time, as students and members of staff, in colleges and universities across the country. John currently teaches literature and visual culture at the University of Westminster (incorporating what was once Harrow School of Art), and Matthew teaches fine art the University of Brighton (formerly Brighton School of Art).
Their photographic survey of the art schools of the North West was exhibited at Liverpool Bluecoat (2018), Bury Art Museum (2019) and Rochdale Touchstones (2021). Recent work on the West Midlands was shown at the New Art Gallery Walsall (February – July 2023) and a public art work, commissioned by Meadow Arts and Hereford College of Arts, opened in Hereford June 2023.
Free Lunchtime Walkthrough: The Art Schools of the East Midlands
Wed 8 Nov 2023
Join us for an insightful gallery tour of our current exhibition, The Art Schools of the East Midlands by John Beck and Matthew Cornford, and the accompanying exhibition, Art [School] Histories in the Vitrines and foyer. Find out how the exhibitions emerged as part of the Art School Project and uncover stories behind the work […]
To accompany The Art Schools of the East Midlands exhibition in our Gallery by John Beck and Matthew Cornford, our Vitrines and Foyer will feature historical materials relating to the history of Nottingham School of Art & Design. The School was first established in 1843, and counts painter Dame Laura Knight, Desperate Dan creator Dudley […]
Art School and the Look: Fashion, Music and Lifestyle in Nottingham and Beyond with Paul Gorman
Wed 22 Nov 2023
Please note this is a rescheduled event that is now streaming online only. Coinciding with The Art Schools of the East Midlands exhibition, join us for a free event that explores the role of British art schools in shaping fashion, music and club culture over the last 40-50 years. We will be joined by esteemed writer and curator Paul […]