School of art draws on rich history to celebrate important milestone


September 2010 sees Birmingham City University celebrating the 125th anniversary of the opening of its School of Art building.

Based in one of the most beautiful and extraordinary educational environments in the country, its listed venetian gothic building in Margaret Street in Birmingham City Centre is a fitting home for a stunning modern art school with light airy studios and cutting-edge technology.

To celebrate this significant milestone a special programme of events has been drawn up including an exhibition, an alumni reception and a symposium offering everyone the opportunity to be part of the celebration. Curator of the exhibition, Matt Williams, explains: “'When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever' celebrates the rich and diverse history of the School of Art and will showcase new and old works from past students and staff alongside artefacts from the college's extensive archive and collection.

“The work will consist of new commissions and works by artists such as Kaye Donachie, William Gear, David J Mabb, Matthew David Burrows and Heather & Ivan Morison.”

Purpose-built for the study of art in 1885, the School is appropriately located in the city centre’s museum and gallery area. Whilst retaining the original wood interiors, stained glass windows and mosaic floors, north facing studio lighting and splendid stairwells, Birmingham based Associated Architects designed and installed - as a part of the £5.5 million refurbishment programme in 1995 – state-of- the-art floating mezzanine levels, glass lifts, spiral staircases, darkrooms, canteen and specialist work spaces.

Matt Williams added: “The Victorian Gothic Structure was designed and built by architect J.H Chamberlain, who also influenced Macintosh for his design of Glasgow School of Art. Heavily influenced by John Ruskin's Stones of Venice, the School of Art was the first municipal art school in the country and for this reason the exhibition's title, which quotes Ruskin, and indeed the selection of works showcased, draw from the architectural impact that the School has imprinted on its many staff and students over the years."

As the School of Art building celebrates its 125th birthday, Head of the School Professor John Butler says he envisages a bright future. He said: “The School of Art is still very much a relevant landmark in the City and we continue to provide a stimulating, creative and contemporary environment for students at all levels of higher arts education. We offer a comprehensive art programme ranging from a pre-degree foundation course, to two undergraduate BA courses, an Arts-Based Master’s Programme with nine awards, a residency Research Fellowship and Higher Research Degrees.”

'When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever' will also include a show reel of images by Alumni. Graduates of The School of Art interested in being involved are invited to send a single Jpeg image of past or recent work to:

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Press are invited to attend the alumni reception and official opening of the exhibition at 4.30pm on Saturday September 11th. For further information, please contact Birmingham City University Press Office on 0121 331 6738. Photographic and interview opportunities will be available at this time.

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