The pandemic, inflation and budget cuts are killing art education.
Before you know it Autumn is upon us and it is already my half term holiday, after only five weeks of term, all be it a very busy five weeks, so the break is welcome.
Budget Cuts In Art Education.
What do most governments do in the face of the financial crisis that has followed in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic?
They are cutting costs wherever they can, they seek desperately to balance the books, despite the fact that State budgets have never been without debt as far as I know, at least in my lifetime. We are told that choices have to be made and one of the first sectors where funding is always cut is in the Culture and Arts sectors. Since as we all know, art is so non essentiel. No matter that pictorial and sculptural representations of our environment have existed since our ancestors lived in caves, proof I think that creative expression is a vital human need, both for the maker and the viewer.
Regional Art Schools.
My art school in Versailles is what is known here as a terretorial art school, because it is not part of the national education system, and there are a little more than forty regional art and design schools in France. It is financed by the local authority (the town of Versailles) with subsidies from the State.
The government funding of these schools has been significantly and repeatedly reduced for five or more years now and because of this our school will be closing. As of this year the Ecole des Beaux Art in Versailles has not accepted first year students into the three year diploma programme for the first time ever, I have been told by the deputy head of the school, in two hundred years. The active and passionate head of the school was removed several years ago, leaving the deputy to muddle on.
I subscribe to the excellent magazine artpress, which is bilingual French/English in the print version.
Created in 1972, artpress is a monthly magazine about international contemporary creation, including: visual arts, literature, photography, video, cinema, electronic arts, architecture, dance, theatre, music.
The deputy editor in chief, Etienne Hatt, wrote in his editorial in the May edition:
In France there is an important network of art and design colleges, which count approximately 13,000 full-time students per year. Ten of these art schools are national and the rest are territorial and rely on the local authorities whose funding is supplemented by the State. Territorial schools have been victims of inflation, affecting the purchase of materials, the increase in energy bills and increased cost of staff payroll. Their functioning has been affected and working and studying conditions are deteriorating. Worse still, the suspension of the entrance exam at some schools is a sure sign of impending closure.
Since septembre 2022, when I started at the school, three teaching posts have not been renewed and the remaining teachers soldier on despite knowing that their jobs are on the line. As far as we know our art school premises will only be open for adult classes from September 2024. This comes as no surprise as the three or four hours tuition a week for the cours publiques costs the participant about the same as our full tuition fees for one year, making the whole enterprise far more profitable financially.
Third Year At Art School.
So this year we have fewer hours of lessons and fewer students. This does mean however that we are a tight knit group and we have more of the remaining teachers’ time with multiple one on one tutorials to help us develop our work.
What have I been up to then since mid September?
This summer I practiced drawing my red ‘opera’ shoes for the series of paintings and etchings that I am currently working on. This red shoe will be a lietmotif in my work for the next academic year.
These are my opera shoes. I bought them for a very special holiday and evening out at the La Fenice opera house in Venice, many years ago. I have hardly worn them since. I will be using this image of an abandoned woman’s shoe to signify/symbolise violence against women, for my on going project of work denouncing femicide by partners or ex partner.
I also started shooting a new series of photographs of the Red Shoes in different locations, both inside and outside. I entered the series for the Lens Culture Emerging Talent Award, unfortunately to no avail. The red shoe in the photographs is intended to symbolise the body of a murdered woman and the different locations are inspired by the true life details of these murders as reported by @feminicidespar on Instagram. A woman is murdered, most often by her partner or ex, every two to three days in France and Europe.
As you can see I have been busy and this is just part of my work to date. I will share more, in particular my paintings, in a future post soon.
The End Of Regional Art Schools?
The slow, painful and in fact planned demise of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Versailles will not effect me very much as a mature student, but it is a terrible loss for younger generations of creatives and ultimately therefore for the culture of the country.
Can you imagine 40+ art and design schools closing to full-time students! Not to mention the loss of teaching income for the many talented artists, who are not among the elite who actually make a living from their work. It hardly seems possible, but it looks like it is the very real future of art education in France.
Thank you for reading.
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