The art school in ruins

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As the British government effectively privatizes higher education in the arts, humanities and social sciences, this article tours the monuments that remain (and some that do not) of the last great era in state-funded training in art and design in the UK: the time between the Second World War and the absorption of art schools into polytechnics and universities when institutions intended to provide artisanal training became the autonomously regulated spaces where much of British popular culture was produced and disseminated. As recently as 1984, Simon Frith and Howard Horne could still write that in Britain ‘every small town has its art school.’ This is no longer the case; while in 1959 there were 180 dedicated art and design institutions in the UK, now there are only a dozen left. The rest of the buildings have been quietly forgotten, renovated as luxury apartments and social housing, adapted as annexes of other, larger institutions, abandoned to the elements, or demolished. Combining image and text, this article explores the abandoned and reused sites of British art schools as the ruined markers of a lost future of unregulated creative practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-83
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Visual Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


  • architecture
  • art school
  • education
  • nostalgia
  • photography
  • ruin


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