Celebrating the School’s past and future

175 at Medicine

Birmingham School of Art recently held an evening with some of the big names of the local art scene to celebrate the past and discuss the future of art. 

Birmingham School of Art

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Over the past year, Birmingham City University has been celebrating 175 years at the heart of Birmingham life. Birmingham Government School of Design, was formed in October 1843 and represents the roots of the institution that they have become today. This celebration and discussion considered the role of Birmingham School of Art and the city into the future.

The Medicine Bakery and Gallery in New Street was a highly appropriate venue for this 175 celebratory event, having once served as the home for the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. Established in 1821, and featuring Ikon’s “Forward” exhibition, visitors had chance to see work by artists living and working in this city; many of whom are Birmingham School of Art students and graduates. 

Chaired by Professor Jonathan Harris, the panel included Jonathan Watkins (Director, Ikon), Toby Whatley (Director of Collections, Birmingham Museums Trust), Alison Honour (Dean, Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, Birmingham City University), and Karolina Korupczynska and Anna Katarzyna (Directors, Stryx Gallery, Birmingham).

The excellent links of the School with Birmingham art scene was a major topic of discussion. Toby Whatley began the discussion looking at the historical relationships between Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the School. Jonathan Watkins reviewed the founding of the Ikon gallery by Birmingham School of Art students and staff and the on-going relationship the institutions still enjoy. Karolina Korupcsynska and Anna Katarzyna of Stryx gallery both have connections with the School, with Korolina a graduate and Anna a current MA Fine Art student.

Touching on the relationships, Alison Honour – Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media said: 

“The Birmingham School of Art works closely with a number of arts organisations, museums and galleries in Birmingham City and throughout the UK. This helps provide exciting opportunities for students such as projects, competitions, research activity and work placements. Being able to experience the exhibitions and programme of events can enhance their studies and allow them to immerse themselves in the cultural life of the city.” 

Alison went on to discuss the current perception of value in the arts, the feeling of social inclusion in difficult times and asking if we are doing enough to provide opportunities in outreach to diverse groups.

A number of Birmingham School of Art graduates were involved in the opening of Stryx gallery in 2012, of which Karolina and Anna are now working as Directors. The pair gave the perspective of a graduate and a current student at the event and spoke about the connection they feel with Birmingham. They discussed the amount of opportunities available to them here that just wouldn’t be possible in London. 

“There’s a big challenge connected with artist run spaces. You need to have the skills and knowledge to produce something visitors will want to see. All of the hard work pays off though; it turns into something more – something satisfying and amazing at the same time.” 

Afterwards, Alison had some advice to prospective students who may be joining us in September: 

 “Become familiar with the partner organisations that we work with, attend events and exhibitions that are free and open to all….start to become part of the creative community of Birmingham City and discover how much it has to offer. “ 

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