Northern arts school’s new online journal highlights innovation in its creative curriculum

January 16, 2019

An online journal featuring research-led articles on creative topics has been launched by The Northern School of Art as part of its ongoing commitment to an innovative art and design curriculum, and the sharing of research within the wider academic community.

Called Perspectives in Art and Design (PAD) the new web-based journal provides a platform for contributors to share peer-reviewed work on a wide range of creativity issues, further enhancing the School’s well-established Contextual Studies provision, which focuses on the history of art and design, and its commitment to recognising scholarly activity.

Lecturing staff and students at the School have contributed to the first edition, which includes a breadth of discussion topics portraying a range of research interests.

These include a paper focusing on the textile traditions of Chernobyl’s Babushkas, by practising artist and lecturer at The Northern School of Art, Claire Baker, work by Alyson Agar, a lecturer in Visual and Material Culture and The Northern School of Art’s Research Champion, analysing renowned contemporary photographer Cindy Sherman’s explorations of ‘selfie culture’ on Instagram, and an interview with fashion historian and writer Amber Butchart by second year textile design student Aliya Jefferson.

Graham Panico, a lecturer in Visual & Material Culture at the School, who also works in the antiques industry, discusses the dichotomy of synagogue building in the nineteenth-century and the adoption of the Moorish taste within the Jewish communities of Europe, whilst Lucy Cairns, a recent graduate from the Production Design for Stage and Screen degree programme, explores visual and textual descriptions of Japanese femininity. 

PAD has been produced by The Northern School of Art’s Scholarly Activity & Research Coordinator, Malcolm Clements, who explained that the aim of PAD was to further encourage and enhance the School’s research culture.

“It’s an opportunity to celebrate staff and students’ written work and research skills, and to promote the idea of undertaking research for research’s sake, and not just for assessment purposes,” he said. “There’s no hierarchy between students and staff, all submissions are treated equally, with the idea of stimulating academic debate on a wide range of creative subjects.”

Malcolm’s paper in the inaugural edition of PAD explores the secret visual languages exposed by the creation of a modern town house owned by Sir Lawrence Dundas in the 1700s. Dundas rose from minor gentry to become one of the greatest purchasers of properties in eighteenth-century Britain, but had the reputation of being a man of dubious character associated with bribery, and political machinations. Malcolm’s research has revealed how his true character and intentions are revealed in the things he purchased and displayed.

PAD will also provide a shop window to highlight excellence in the School’s theory modules which is part of the programme of study on all of its art and design degree courses.

The module has been an integral part of The Northern School of Art’s degree-level curriculum for the past two decades, something that Malcolm notes is becoming increasingly unusual in art and design institutions.

“Our approach at the School is innovative in that what we teach in the lecture theatre is directly linked to what students create in the studio, and to their own lives in general. There’s always been steadfast backing for Contextual Studies and it continues to be well-supported and well-resourced.  In many other art and design schools it has fallen victim to funding cuts,” he added.

Malcolm commented: “Students often surprise themselves about their ability to produce an in-depth piece of research and will say they never thought it was something they could do but have really enjoyed.

“It gives them an insight into theories of creativity and helps them to think critically about their studio practice. This adds depth to their own work and gives students a skill which will last well beyond their formal education.”

Alongside the theory modules and the new online journal, PAD, students can also access a design study archive maintained by the School to support their research and gain inspiration within the studio.

Including clothes from the 19th and 20th centuries, bound copies of The Studio magazine from 1890-2010, a collection of Japanese kimono, textiles and decorative arts it is available for both staff and students to use as part of their research.

“It is an enviable resource that is widely used in teaching and by students,” Malcom notes. “Object-based learning brings topics to life and is well received by our students. It underpins our approach and helps us to instill in learners how important research is, which really sets our degree programmes apart. The creation and upkeep of the archive is a clear example of how the School supports what we do in the theory modules.”

Perspectives in Art and Design (PAD) is available here.

Details of the creative degree courses offered by The Northern School of Art are available at www.northernart.ac.uk. Or visit one of the School’s open days at its Hartlepool campus which take place on Saturday 23 March 2019, Saturday 8 June 2019 and Thursday 4 July 2019.

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