The Art Schools of North West England

Matthew Cornford, John Beck

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition


The Art Schools of North West England is an exhibition of photographs and texts documenting and investigating the buildings or former sites of the 32 art schools in operation in North West England during the latter half of the twentieth century. Most of these art schools are no longer operational and while some of the buildings are protected, many have been repurposed or demolished. Recent scholarship on the story of British art schools has focused on London. This research shed new light on the historic and cultural value of regional art schools and used the form of the photographic exhibition to elicit viewers’ engagement and reflection on the changing landscape of art education. Texts were created from local oral, written and visual histories including testimonies from former art students, invited to share their knowledge and memories through recorded interviews and photographs.

Research was carried out at the National Archives, Kew, with evidence gathered from historical documents on art schools in the North West including prospectuses and government reports. The sites were then visited with a view to understanding the visible evidence of development, change and loss. Photography provided a means to document and present these sites of former education, and interviews were conducted with local people and former attendees to further interpret their cultural value. As an exhibition, the project enabled a sharing of perspectives on issues of civic aspiration and public ownership, the changing function of civic buildings, cultural policy and ambitions, and the perceived value of education in the arts.

The exhibition was first shown at the Bluecoat, Liverpool (2018-2019) and toured to Bury Art Museum (2019-20). The research was also the subject of a Resonance FM radio programme and a symposium at the Bluecoat.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBluecoat, Liverpool
Size32 Framed photographs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2018


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