Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The St Andrews Decorated School Student Symposium

To School? The St Andrews Decorated School Student Symposium
was held on 21 November 2012


1.30 Welcome

1.40-3.00 First Session: School Art (Questions of Community, ‘The Child’, Success, Failure, Quality, Ideology and Artistic Personality)

1.    Emma Duff: Two Schools in Belfast
2.    Lucy Thomas: Eton Graffiti
3.    Julia Lysogorova: A School in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
4.    Charlotte Dare: The National Preparatory School, Mexico
5.    Georgie Inglis: The Martin Luther King School, Cambridge, Mass.
6.    Taylor Poppmeier: Martin Luther King School, Cambridge and The Ministry of Public Education, Mexico City
7.    Chloe Lieberman: The William Penn Charter School, Philadelphia
8.    Livia Marinescu: Dalry Primary School

3.00-3.30 Tea Break (Barns-Graham Room and Break Out Space)

3.30-5.00 Second Session: (School Art: From Infants to Higher Education Spaces, and Libraries; Questions of Form, Era, Place and Permanence)

1.    Anne-Pauline Mimran: An Infants’ School in Paris
2.    Juliana Cusack: Westville Road (Greenside) School, London
3.    Imogen Kwok: Obernai and Kvernhuset Schools
4.    Hannah Anderson: Scotland Street School, Glasgow
5.    Aiden Bowman: School Libraries
6.    Lucy Tittle: Oxford Union (Old Library) Murals
7.    Giedre Zlatkute: Vilnius University Murals
8.    Claire Abrahamson: Sculpture at Yale University
9.    Hayley Daen: Art Rental at Oberlin College, Ohio

5.00-5.15 Discussion and Thanks

 (For presentation videos see Events)

Monday, 19 November 2012

Forum article and editorial comment by Michael Fielding

Catherine Burke. The Decorated School: past potency and present patronage, pages 465–471 FORUM Volume 54, Number 3, 2012 www.wwwords.co.uk/FORUM

Here is an extract from the editorial in the issue written by Michael Fielding.

The absolute importance of history and, in particular, the history of education in our own countries is again underscored by Catherine Burke’s The Decorated School: past potency and present patronage. Not only does it help us understand the origins of the present, it helps us re-see what presumption, exhaustion and hegemonic incorporation too often obscure, distort or discard. In the remarkable Decorated School project academics, young people, teachers and community members are coming together to rediscover, and in some cases restore, the murals, reliefs, stained glass, wall tiles, decorated floors, textile and sculptures that once formed part of a movement in education that exemplified Henry Morris’s beliefs about the educative power of the built environment which preface the article thus: ‘The design, decoration and equipment of our places of education cannot be regarded as anything less than of first-rate importance -- as equally important, indeed, as the teacher. There is no order of precedence -- competent teachers and beautiful buildings are of equal importance and equally indispensable.’ It is difficult to think of a more stark contrast to the recent government insistence that new state schools ‘should have ‘no curves or ‘faceted’ curves’, corners should be square, ceilings should be left bare and buildings should be clad in nothing more expensive than render or metal panels above head height. As much repetition as possible should be used to keep costs down’ (Booth, 2012). Of the many fascinating issues that emerge in the article amongst the most compelling is the journey from public art as itself an educator, through its partial displacement by the sometimes invasive imperative to display children’s work, via the managerialist arrogance of supplanting both with curtains of concealment and the self-regarding installation of carpeted corridors to the headteacher’s office (a real example from the paper!), through to the co-option of both art and architecture in the drive to contrive a simulacra of distinctive school ethos as a key seducer of parental choice in the education market-place. Trying to map and understand this journey, not only through actual artifacts and written records, but also through interviews with children to try to understand what sense they made of ‘the removal, concealment or destruction of art objects that had become a feature of their everyday worlds’ is a profoundly important undertaking.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

BBC report on the restoration of Fred Millett's murals at St Crispin's School, Wokingham

Thanks to the efforts of the present head teacher and school governor, Robin Cops, two of the three murals of the seasons by Fred Millett have been recovered at St Crispin's School, Wokingham, after being concealed under thick gloss paint for 40 years. Click on the link to watch a TV report celebrating the recovery with comments by pupils and the daughters of Oliver Cox, architect who also produced  murals for the school including one shown here.

BBC Report

Monday, 22 October 2012

L'Art et L'Enfant: An Exhibition at the French National Museum of Education, Rouen

An exhibition entitled 'L'art et l'enfant: L'éducation esthétique du XIX siècle à nos jours' opened recently (19 October) at the French National Museum of Education in Rouen. It runs until 1 September 2013. It is remarkable not just for breaking new conceptual ground but also for the quality of its exhibits, extent of its vision and the subtlety of its 'voice'.

The exhibition is the brainchild of Annie Renonciat, Professor at the École normale supériore Lyon, a renowned specialist on the relationships of childhood and imagery, and a much valued contributor to the Decorated School Research Network. It illustrates, both historically and thematically, the development of the fostering of children's artistic sensibilities, talents and abilities. The first section, 'From "scribbler" to "child artist"', commences with an introduction to ideas concerning aesthetic education in eighteenth century France. Charles Hardiviller's '10 a.m. Drawing Lesson' from the 'A Day in the Life of a Young Exile' set of colour lithographs published by Alexander Hill of Edinburgh and Fonrouge of Paris in 1832 caught my eye. The section subsequently reviews the methods of modern propagators of aesthetic pedagogy from Gaston Quénioux, through Pauline Kergomard, Maria Montessori, Germaine Tortel, and Élise and Célestin Freinet, to Gérard Garouste. The large and welcome range of children's art that is examined includes, for instance, drawing, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, photography and 'little hands'' needlework. The 'initiation' art encouraged by Tortel and the 'free drawing' approach of the Freinets in the mid-twentieth century were unexpected discoveries for me.

Economic, social and moral objectives for aesthetic education and the 'wrapping of children in an artistic atmosphere' are studied, with their combination coming to fore, in the section called 'Art at Home'. Ideas for 'children's rooms', plus samples of wallpapers, bedroom fabrics, toys, illustrated books and images, are displayed, these dating from the late nineteenth century on. The activities of such early twentieth century associations such as 'L'Art et l'enfant' (from 1908) and the Société des amateurs de jeux et de jouets anciens (from 1905) are revealed, alongside the products and advertisements of commercial enterprises and publishers, such as Magasins du Printemps, Grand Magasins du Louvre and Hachette. Particularly striking are the simple painted wooden nursery toys by Caran d'Ache and André Hellé (Tsar Nicholas II hunting, of 1908, by the former, and Noah's Ark, of 1910, by the latter). Also attractive are the vivacious and sensitive decorative designs, cloths and papers for children's rooms from the 1920s and 1950s. Benjamin Rabier of 'La vache qui rit' fame, stands out for the variety and strength of his artistic output for children. The superb child-centred (mainly sixties) photographs of Pierre Allard and Jean Suquet, of which the museum has a vast collection, are highly evocative and utilised with a great sense of selection.

The section of 'Art at School' begins with Jules Ferry's creation of the Commission for the Decoration of Schools and School Imagery' in 1880, looks at the initiatives of the L'Art à l'école society (established 1907), teaching through images, didactic games and illustrated puzzles, decorative designs by children (and manuals for these), the artistic design of awards and diplomas, the decoration and illustration of school books, art and the new education of the 1930s, 'the beautiful for the price of the ugly' of the fifties, and contemporary art books for children. Examples of 'decorated schools' include the following: images of the seventeenth century Chapel of the Jesuit School in Rouen; watercolour maquette drawings of the decoration of the École Normale Primaire de Chartres (1884); photographs of French Third Republic school palaces; an intriguing postcard of the study room, complete with Maurice Denis style murals of children learning in nature, at 'La Ruche - Le Patis', the 'Hive' primary school founded on libertarian principles by the anarchist Sébastien Faure near Rambouillet (Yvelines); and some refined flora and fauna-based frieze and stencil designs made in 1927 by children from the Coopératives scolaires of Saint-Jean d'Angély.

The exhibition culminates in a photographic survey of the world of the decorated school beyond France. The twenty-eight images reveal polychromatic and plastic facades, stained glass, winter gardens, murals and sculptures that embellish school institutions from Victorian Northumberland and 1900s continental Europe, to interwar Brighton, Edinburgh and Barcelona, postwar Hertfordshire and Yorkshire, and late twentieth century Australia and New Zealand. The visual articulation of distinct aesthetic and ideological purpose is represented, with connections being made to national, local and communal identity, history, literature, mathematics, religion, science, youth and, inevitably, art itself.

There is much more to this exhibition than I have time to 'report' here. I recommend visiting in person, for each vitrine, each wall and each section contains a wealth of inspiring sources for keen eyes and minds...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Wall needed for Robert Stewart ceramic mural

Douglas Academy was opened in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, Scotland, in 1967. By 2009 the school was deemed no longer fit for purpose and a new PPP-funded school was built in its place.

Thanks to Peter Trowles, Mackintosh Curator at the Glasgow School of Art, the ceramic mural by Robert Stewart that was created for the original building at the time of its construction has been saved. There's one problem. The 800 or so tiles are sitting in crumbling cardboard boxes and lack a wall. Peter and a colleague spent two days painstakingly removing the tiles from their doomed site when the school was about to be demolished. What is now needed is a wall, preferably something around five metres by three metres, for the mural to be relocated to. In fact, the central block of the mural measures around 1.5 x 1.5 metres, so, at a push, a space that size would do.

I've already written about the significance of Bob Stewart on this blog, in relation to his similarly threatened mural at Eastwood High School, Newton Mearns.

As school estate is rebuilt, or being considered for redevelopment, more and more artworks have questionable futures. The Stewart at Milngavie was given considerable attention by Liz Arthur in her monograph on the artist (pp.125 and 127), and from the images and text its historic place is clear. Apparently 'inspired by the sight of a seagull passing in front of the sun while Stewart was lying on his back looking at the sky on holiday on Oronsay', this strong, polychromatic abstract work is a sixties icon that pays homage to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style. Its days within a school environment might be over but surely it is worth reinstalling somewhere for all to see.

Students of the 'To School?' honours and postgraduate modules in the Art History department at the University of St Andrews were shown tiles from the mural when they visited the Glasgow School of Art, the cradle of Stewart's career between 1949 and 1984, on 10 October 2012. That same day they (and I) also participated in the research seminar dedicated to 'Sculpture in Schools' at Glasgow University's Institute of Art History.

Monday, 8 October 2012

'Any idea what the sculpture might be worth ?' The story of Gladys or 'Welcome' by Peter Peri, Greenhead College, Huddersfield 1961-2012.


The title of this post is a direct quote from a journalist who was seeking a commission to write an article suitable for publication in a mainstream educational journal, The Times Educational Supplement. The question was put to me about ‘Welcome’, a sculpture by Peter Laszlo Peri (1899-1967) which has been removed from the outside wall of Greenhead College in Huddersfield, England, after having been placed there 50 years ago. ‘Welcome’ or Gladys as she was affectionately known was an integral part of the building and the school grounds reaching out to the community beyond the school. Plans to build an extension to the college building required the removal of the sculpture to another place on site. However, on inspection, it was declared to be unsafe and a danger to the school community and was speedily and rather brutally removed.

Removed at the ankles

Immediately after removal

It is not known who dressed Gladys in this recent photograph

The Henry Moore Institute at Leeds holds a collection of drawings and photographs by Peri including over 300 drawings, c.1930-1960, among which are ideas for work and drawings relating to specific sculptures. Many of the scenes depicting children relate to commissions for schools from the 1950s, mostly for Leicestershire Education Authority. 

Peri produced a vast amount of sculpture for schools during the 1950s and 60s, the decades that saw leaders of Local Educational Authorities signifying their commitment to a modern state education through the inclusion of work by some of the best modernist artists in modern buildings. Peri’s school work includes

    • 1957 Willenhall Primary School. Three dimensional sculpture.
    • 1958 Coventry. St. Michael Primary School. Coloured concrete relief.
    • 1965 Ernesford Grange Junior School, Coventry. Sculpture and relief. Polyester
    • 1961 Huddersfield High School for Girls. Now Greenhead College  Horizontal sculpture and a relief.
    • 1964 Long Eaton Secondary Modern. Three dimensional sculpture.

The ‘education of the eye’ was taken very seriously in the post war years in England and this was not only a matter of aesthetics but also of equity and democracy. It was acknowledged that the majority of children attending state schools would be unlikely to ever enter an art gallery or museum and so the school itself should become a canvas for the arts. Aesthetic and design education would become part of the role that the built environment played in stimulating and awakening the artist in the child and nurturing their creative capacities. Was this naïve ? Or have we lost a sense of the value of living and learning amongst material things of beauty and intrinsic artistic worth? Is this a generational issue? If adults in schools have lost a sense of the educational value of such things is this true also of pupils?

We do not know very much about children’s appreciation of such art over time in school buildings and grounds because we have until now failed to ask the appropriate questions. We do know, however, that children habitually and naturally attach and ascribe meaning to material objects in school grounds and use these in story building, play and place marking. It is quite possible that Henry Morris was correct when he argued in the 1930s, 

We shall not bring about any improvement in standards of taste by lectures and preachings; habitation is the golden method. Buildings that are well-designed and equipped and beautifully decorated will exercise their potent, but unspoken, influence on those who use them from day to day. This is true education.

The question regarding the value of this particular sculpture in 2012 is inevitably central to any public campaign to preserve such examples of The Decorated School that may arise in the future. The question leads directly to a consideration of the significance of the artist, usually in the context of their life’s work and wider legacy. In the past, when these same artists installed their works, this was not a consideration. While as far as possible the best and most innovative artists available were commissioned, the signature on the work was academic: what was deemed important was the influence these objects would quietly wield on the lives of generations of children, their teachers and parents. Whether this happened to any extent is difficult to know since, to our knowledge, no research has been carried out to investigate how children have responded to the long term presence of such features in their schools. But certainly, the notion that what experts have determined as high or high quality art might operate on children's personalities, civilizing them in the process has become seriously questioned in a culture that has democratized art's production and consumption. The monetary value of these works of art is now a necessary part of the rationale that justifies their preservation. Certainly, their part in the general educational experience has for many decades been supplanted by other priorities. 

In 1974, Robert Winston Witkin argued in The Intelligence of Feeling for a curriculum that recognized emotional and ‘sensate' dimensions to learning. He also argued the aesthetic dimension as being as key to the making of modern societies as it has been to the making of pre-modern societies. Is Gladys a metaphor for the place of the arts in the curriculum in relation to more securely valued subjects and preoccupations?

Dr Catherine Burke

Monday, 1 October 2012

New Brunswick's Mural Legacy: The State of the Art

For further information please contact Kirk Niergarth, Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities, Mount Royal University, Calgary  -  kniergarth@mtroyal.ca

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Decorated School. Re-evaluating the Role of Art in the Classroom.
Article by Natalie Bradbury reproduced with the author's kind permission, from the current issue of The Modernist magazine.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Material Meanings Conference, Canterbury

This week the project reported some of its achievements and discoveries to an international conference of art and architectural historians (amongst others). 

The Third Biannual conference of the European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies (EAM) was held at the University of Kent, 7-9 September 2012.  In a panel on

‘Matters of Learning Material: Education through Art, Art through Education’

Jeremy Howard spoke on ‘Wellington Monuments: Interpreting and contextualizing Hubert Wellington’s strategy for permanent art in modern schools in 1930s Edinburgh’,
Catherine Burke on ‘Concealment and exposure: the story of the Barbara Mildred Jones mural “Adam Naming the Animals” (1959-2009)’, and
Peter Cunningham on ‘Art in the curriculum and art on the walls: Primary education the 1950s’. 

It was, however a week of highs and lows for decorated schools as the panel also had to report on two very recent incidents affecting works featured recently on this blog.  One is the discovery of structural damage to Peter Peri’s spectacular 1961 sculpture ‘Welcome’  at Greenhead College, Huddersfield: http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/local-west-yorkshire-news/2012/09/04/greenhead-college-statue-known-as-gladys-to-be-removed-amid-safety-fears-86081-31759957/2/  

The second is a fire that destroyed one wing of Sawston Village College, Cambridgeshire:

Both events are reminders of the natural threats to decorated schools, additional to the challenges posed by shifts in political or administrative attitudes towards individual works of art, and changing aesthetic tastes, resulting in negligence or worse.   Conservation issues remain central to our project.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Sylvia Rhor will present 'Outstanding American Women. Shaping Chicago's Public Schools through Murals in the early 20th Century' at our final conference February 23rd, 2013.

Dr. Sylvia Rhor is Associate Professor of Art History at Carlow University. Dr. Rhor received an M.A. and Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of Pittsburgh and a B.A. in Art History from New York University, where she was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar. Her doctoral thesis focused on the recently restored murals in Chicago's public schools; Dr. Rhor's thesis marks the first sustained scholarly analysis of that collection. She became involved with this collection while directing "Chicago: A City in Art" at The Art Institute of Chicago. In that capacity, Dr. Rhor was part of a large-scale effort to locate, preserve, document and re-integrate historic murals into contemporary school life. After leaving the Art Institute, she was hired by Chicago Public Schools as a consultant for the mural collection. She also contributed research and an essay to Heather Becker's Art for the People and served on the curatorial team for To Inspire and to Instruct: The Art Collection of Chicago Public Schools, an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently preparing her doctoral thesis for publication. Dr. Rhor will be drawing on her work on the historic murals in Chicago public schools in her upcoming lecture at the Decorated School Research Network conference in February 2013. An overview of her lecture is provided here.

Outstanding American Women:
Shaping Chicago's Public Schools through Murals in the early 20th Century1
Sylvia Rhor, PhD

In 1941, the Chicago Board of Education declared that Edward Millman’s (1907-1964) fresco Outstanding American Woman in Lucy Flower Technical High School was unacceptable.2
Millman’s fresco cycle, which spanned six walls in the school’s entrance foyer, depicted a series of well-known American women such as Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Clara Barton. Though the Board praised the artist's choice of women, they stated that the mural was “lacking in the spirit we wish to have in a public school to inspire young American womanhood and that anyone looking at the mural would get the impression [the murals] are stressing poverty and the failure of our democracy to uplift its people.”3 Under directives from the Board of Education, the fresco was covered with white calcimine in November 1941. It remained obscured from the public until 1995, when conservators from the Chicago Conservation Center uncovered the fresco, then hidden under layers of paint and school paraphernalia.
The censoring of Millman's fresco at Flower High School raises a number of questions regarding the role of mural painting in early 20th century public education in Chicago. Commissioned by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project (WPA-FAP), one of the New Deal relief programs for artists, it was one of hundreds of mural placed in public buildings during the Great Depression. In keeping with WPA-FAP policy, the theme – women’s contribution to American civilization – had been chosen in collaboration with project supervisors and the school principal. For an all-girls’ school like Flower, the subject seemed particularly suitable. In fact, it was well received by the school’s students, who declared his portrayal “heroic” in the school yearbook of 1940.
Before embarking on this project, too, Millman had not only completed several successful New Deal mural commissions in Chicago and throughout the United States, but had also served as arbiter in several high profile censorship cases. As such, he was intimately familiar with the parameters of acceptable imagery and subject matter for school murals. Nevertheless, the fresco proved unviable by Board standards.
Given that the teachers, students and FAP supervisors firmly supported the mural, what was it then that made this fresco untenable? How did Millman’s work contradict the notions of “democracy,” “womanhood” and “uplift” evoked in the Board’s criticism? Millman’s affiliation with left-wing politics of the 1930s makes it tempting to view his mural within the context of New Deal murals and place it among other similarly controversial works of the period. However, this reading neglects the fresco’s place within a long tradition of mural painting in Chicago public schools.
Between 1905 and 1943, over 2000 mural panels (approximately 500 cycles) were executed for city schools. These monumental panels lined corridors, auditoriums and libraries of city schools and included examples from some of Chicago’s best-known artists.
As I demonstrated in my thesis, the school mural movement emerged under the auspices of activist clubwomen in Chicago in the opening decades of the 20th century. It was precisely through the commissioning and placement of murals in public schools that middle-class women successfully intervened in educational politics in the years before suffrage. The groundwork laid by such groups informed mural painting in schools until the end of the New Deal, when Millman’s mural was censored. A sustained analysis of the censorship of Millman's fresco at Flower within the context of the long tradition of the school mural movement in Chicago reveals that murals were pivotal tools for intervening in educational politics and articulating varying notions of democracy in the early twentieth century. In fact, I argue, that Millman's depiction of women such as Jane Addams, Lucy Flower, and Grace Abbott, Millman simultaneously evoked the very network of female reform that had given rise to the school mural movement in Chicago, and critiqued the biases of public education in Chicago in the 1940s. Moreover, the restoration and reintegration of Millman's fresco and other historic murals into Chicago's public schools at the opening of the 21st century brings attention to the contemporary role of art in public education. The rediscovery and use of the historic mural collection demonstrates the critical role that conservators, museum professionals and citizens groups play in preserving the arts in public schools at a moment when these very disciplines are being radically cut from the curriculum.
1 This text is drawn in part from my doctoral thesis, Educating America: Murals and Public Education in Chicago, 1905-1941 (Ph.D. diss., University of Pittsburgh, 2004).

2 Lucy Flower Technical High School was re-named Lucy Flower Vocational High School in 1956 and re-named once in 1995 as Lucy Flower Career Academy. The school became co-educational in the 1970s. The school was closed in 2003.

3 Marcia Winn, “’Dismal!’ So High School Murals are Painted Out,” Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1941.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

1930s Floor mural rediscovered in USA school

Historical mural discovered at Broadwater Elementary School

see story and video of these interesting rediscovered art works at 


Saturday, 4 August 2012

Times Educational Supplement article on Greenside mural

An article covering the campaign to restore the Gordon Cullen mural at Greenside school appears in the TES today. There may well be a series of articles to follow covering The Decorated School more generally.

TES Article

Monday, 30 July 2012

'Sculpture, The Arts and The Decorated School' - Henry Moore Institute, Saturday 23rd June 2012.

Catherine Burke’s introduction to the ‘Decorated School’ seminar, taken from an educational perspective discussed the book ‘The School That I’d Like’ (1969), a collection of pupils’ opinions; the child being perceived as the ‘client’ of the school. Its editor, Edward Blishen, drew attention to the perceived importance of the material environment including shape, colour and aesthetics. One 18-year-old pupil, Ann wrote:

‘Above all, education should be exciting. No educated person can claim boredom amidst so much knowledge. School life should be crammed with interest – the building too. Yet nothing is more depressing than the buff-coloured classroom! Revolution must break out, the classroom must be invaded by novel colour schemes and different architectural styles, taken over by paintings and sculpture. No two should look the same.’

Catherine questioned what was an artwork’s educational value? From the findings of the Network, once in situ the fate of the artwork was often in the hands of the school, with murals being boarded or painted over, when perceived as old fashioned or if needing repair. An example that Catherine shared was the ‘Adam Naming the Animals’ mural designed for Yewlands School, Sheffield by Barbara Jones in 1954, commissioned by the architect Basil Spence. At some point the mural had been concealed behind plasterboard and when it was decided that the school should be demolished, the existence of the artwork was remembered too late to save it.

In Jeremy Howard’s ‘Sculpture in Schools’ overview the speaker pointed out that sculptures rivalled painted murals as the most commonly found school artworks (though textiles, mosaics and glass also proliferated). He indicated that the mid-twentieth century was a heyday for school sculpture in Britain and abroad but that its historical development could be traced back at least to the seventeenth century and that there were many works to be encountered around the world from different periods. Jeremy focused on the example of Leicestershire Educational Authority’s patronage of sculpture in the 1960s-1970s in order to highlight some of the issues pertaining to school sculpture. It was wondered whether schools viewed sculpture in a different way to monumental paintings. Was this linked to the materials the works were made from and the response they evoke, whether touch, play, wonderment or vandalism? Or was it the theme that counted, and if the work was didactic, narrational, or institutional?

Jeremy questioned how the users of the school were allowed to respond to a sculpture. Did the power relations of staff over pupils, limit the children’s access to the work, through touch or exploration. Did this ultimately play a part in how it was perceived and its subsequent lifespan? Jeremy also questioned the criteria for selection (‘suitability for children’) of sculptures for school environments.

Jeremy felt school sculpture, placed in non-classroom environments, sometimes challenged the role of the gallery. An example of a successful placement was Phillip King’s sheet metal construction ‘Dunstable Reel’ bought by Stuart Mason for Countesthorpe College, Leicestershire (1970). The sculpture, placed at the heart of the school buildings was respected by the pupils and there was a positive attitude by all the institution’s users to its positioning; as a result it avoided vandalism. This was in something of a contrast to a William Pye sculpture inside the foyer that had suffered some damage. It was felt that these experiences from the past could help care for the work of the future.

In Claire Mayoh’s ‘Stories from the archives’ she illustrated how the Henry Moore Institute’s Archive had an amazing amount of interesting, books, catalogues, photographs, letters, press cuttings and personal papers of sculptors. Just using 'art in schools' as a starting point Claire pulled from the archive a range of information about commissions and purchases of sculpture for schools across the UK. Claire showed examples from the collections of émigré artists Franta Belsky, Peter Peri and Willi Soukop, also Betty Rea’s involvement with the Society for Education through Art for their annual art sales for schools in the 1950s-1960s. Additionally examples of the pioneering artworks commissioned and bought by Leicestershire Education Authority in the post war period.

The variety of gems uncovered included a newspaper cutting from 1958 reporting the rejection of Soukop’s ‘Donkey’ sculpture by Nottinghamshire Education Committee for one of it schools, as it was seen as too controversial; in contrast another school in Leicestershire loved their version of the same artwork. So much so that Leicestershire Education Authority wrote to Soukop, (as evidenced in a letter from the Archive) for advice over its damaged ear. Claire showed that the Archive has in some cases enough information within its files to create a comprehensive over view of how an artwork was commissioned for a school or in others a tantalising snippet that needs to be explored more.

For more information about the Henry Moore Institute Archive of sculptors' papers please visit www.henry-moore.org/hmi/archive

The theme of working in partnership and how to gain a further understanding of the relationship between education and the arts led to the discussion, ‘Designing a collaborative research and development project’. As the variety of knowledge and expertise from the delegates was so wide, the responses provided food for thought.

Firstly it was discussed how the Decorated School Network could build a research relationship with the Henry Moore Institute? The suggestions offered were to create a collaborative doctoral award project (AHRC). Also to develop an exhibition about the history of education through the arts, especially sculpture.

Broader research questions elicited responses such as ‘art as an extended architecture: the silent teacher’ (drawn from Henry Morris). ; in contrast looking at the absence of such art. The place of sculpture in relation to the buildings: the significance of site? The place of art in the procurement of new buildings: learning from the past. Sculpture and play: challenging concepts of value. Examining how does public school art develop longevity through memory and through its appreciation by the wider community? Also the meaning of education through art today.

In terms of projects, it was thought that there could be a national recording scheme, also to develop an interactive website as an educational tool utilising the archive at its strongest parts (i.e. 1950s and 60s); ensuring that contemporary artists had access to this information to help promote current work. Additionally examining the idea of 'vandalism' as positive and creative.

In my talk (Dawn Pereira)  ‘Art for the “Common Man” Sculpture in Schools within the London County Council (1957-1965)’ I wanted to pull together some of the strands already discussed, such as placement , theme, genre and response using the artwork placed in LCC schools as a case study.

My account was a chronological journey examining the reasons behind the type of art commissioned or acquired for a range of educational establishments throughout London. I gave an account of individual commissions to illustrate how the type of murals and sculptures purchased changed over the lifespan of the intervention. I discussed how as they progressively became more expensive and abstract, they increasingly became difficult for the public to understand. 

I revealed that many of the problems stemmed from the internal battle between the education department, sub committees and the Arts Council regarding what was considered ‘suitable’, compounded by the negative response of the recipients. The most extreme example being Joe Tilson’s geometric mural that was rejected by the school governors and was never resited. However I also discussed successful commissions, such as Mary Fedden’s ‘Circus’ mural, where the favourite design was voted for by the students.  Also Lesley South’s play sculpture, which initially encountered safety and durability issues at committee stage but was eventually well received by the school and its pupils.

In regards to the long term reaction to the work I concurred with the findings of the Network that sculptures were stolen for scrap value, vandalised, or removed if thought dangerous or unsuitable. However I also found that others were played on and loved. In the respect of murals I discussed that some had suffered the fate of being removed or boarded over, to then in some instances be remade, rediscovered and celebrated.

To read the paper in full please follow the link to Dawn Pereira, ‘Art for the “Common Man” Sculpture in Schools within the London County Council (1957-1965)’.

Cilla Eisner’s talk on Antony Hollaway and Peter Peri’s work for schools in the 1950s and 60s offered the perspective of an artist and teacher, but also a more personal insight. Her access to some of Peri’s archives and her own friendship with Hollaway helped us learn more about the artists’ working methods and what inspired them.

Peri, born in 1899 to a Jewish family was an active communist in Budapest, eventually he moved to London in 1933. In the 1950s he was commissioned to create series of wall murals for the new schools in Leicestershire. Cilla described his methods of working with a new type of concrete ‘Pericrete’, which he had developed himself. She discussed the sculptures, etchings, drawings and designs from private collections not usually accessible to the public and these subsequently formed the major part of an exhibition that she curated for the Sam Scorer Gallery, Lincoln in 2008.

It was particularly interesting from Cilla’s presentation to learn more about the life and career of Tony Hollaway. Born in Poole in 1928 to a coal merchant he went onto to study art at Bournemouth College of Art (1948-53), then undertook an art teacher’s diploma at Southampton University. In 1953 he gained a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, Cilla informed us that his contemporaries were Joe Tilson, William Mitchell and Frank Auerbach and that he was influenced by the work of Ferdinand Leger and the Bauhaus School. In 1957 he started his own practice as stained glass and mural designer, quickly gaining the role of a Design Consultant at the LCC until 1968.

During this period Hollaway became increasingly interested in education, eventually becoming Head of Three Dimensional Design at Trent Polytechnic and later undertaking a PhD (now held at the National Arts Education Archive). He also developed a working partnership with Manchester based architect Harry Fairhurst, which resulted in several commissions for murals and decorative concrete work. In 1972 he started the first of the windows at Manchester Cathedral, leading to four further commissions, culminating in his ‘Revelation Window’ (1995).

Cilla recalled that she first met Hollaway in 1989 when she invited him to give a talk on colour to the students in her class. Through a series of newspaper cuttings, photographs and personal reminisces, Cilla shared some of the stories and inspiration behind Hollaway’s artworks. An early commission made for a school was based on St George and the Dragon created for St. Georges School, Swaythling, (1957). Cilla tells us that Hollaway wanted the contrasting dark and light design of the mosaic panels to represent good and evil. Hollaway went on to develop this symbolic imagery further in his ‘St George’ stained glass window designed for Manchester Cathedral (1972).

An artwork that Hollaway made specifically for King Edward VII Grammar School, Coalville was a sculptural screen wall based on mathematical principles (1961). It was created from reinforced concrete, ceramic tiles and glass, positioned on a raised walkway linking the Main Hall to the Science block. Cilla showed us the press cutting from the Design journal, which featured the work in January 1963. She emphasised Hollaway’s use of pioneering techniques, a photo showing the artist creating the design with an electric hot wire, drawn into polystyrene. During this era artists were photographed ‘in action’ and were featured in many architecture, design and art journals. Headlines such as ‘Art with a blow lamp’, emphasising how new and exciting this type of public art made for schools, was perceived to be.

The pupil in ‘The School That I’d Like ‘wanted a revolution of colour, originality, and variety in her school, and as we have seen at ‘The Sculpture, the Arts and The Decorated School’ seminar this did take place where education authorities or private architects had the vision to commission individual artworks, take the necessary care in their placement and take into account how they would subsequently be perceived by the ‘clients’ themselves