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  1. #1
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    Save the National Art School, Sydney Australia

    Hey everyone,
    I've been a member here at Conceptart.org for quite a while now and this community was actually one of the big reasons I chose to finally bite the bullet and study Fine Arts full time. When I looked around at potential schools, the National Art School here in Sydney is the one I chose. I chose NAS because of its practical, studio (atelier) model of teaching fine arts, with four or more days completely face to face with professional, practicing artists. I chose this style of school because, as I know most members here at CA.org do, I wanted a solid technical education and a foundation in the history of art and art-making.

    Well, tonight I'm writing to bring to your attention the situation which is facing NAS, the school that is arguably Sydney's oldest fine arts school and has a list of alumni featuring countless members of Australia's best known artists. The campus occupies the grounds of Sydney/Australia's oldest gaol (jail), making use of several former cell blocks, the chapel etc.

    Essentially, the government funding which supported NAS in the past has been pulled, as one arts supporting politician was replaced with a less supportive one. Rather than close up the school completely, the government opened up the bidding to local universities to buy NAS, of which two universities bid.

    While one university (Maquarie) seemed to be the more suitable of the two bidders (for various reasons) it eventually retracted its bid. This left NAS open to the bid of the College of Fine Arts (COFA), a situation which has been considered rather undesirable by most staff/students at NAS.

    Why?

    COFA, located only 5 minutes walk from NAS, is well known as a conceptually based school. It is very much open to new media, design and the like (which is not in itself bad) and, while it does offer life drawing classes and painting classes, the face-to-face time with teachers is not as strong a priority as it is at NAS. Even amongst COFA staff, the proposed 'merge' is often seen as a 'takeover' and, with the NAS campus within such close proximity to COFA it is not a stretch of the imagination to see the merge as an expansion into a large new plot of land (with newly renovated library and several exhibition spaces).

    There are other options for NAS than to be subsumed by a university. One of these options is that the school retains its independence, following the model of other Sydney arts schools such as the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

    While the issue may seem to come across as 'COFA/ conceptual art= bad, NAS/ traditional/ atelier model= good', I do not think that the majority of students at NAS think that way. Both models of teaching have their validity and their place in a healthy artistic community. The NAS seeks to retain its model of atelier based studio practice as seperate to the university style conceptual art basis of COFA.

    This distinction is an important one for future students seeking a Fine Art education in Sydney/Australia (not to mention many International Students) as they come to choose the institution from which they will be educated.

    Personally, this issue is also symbolic of the value and importance of artistic freedom in the face of economic rationalism.

    This article explains the situation more clearly than i've done:
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/i...816179994.html

    Several activities have already taken place to raise the profile of these issues locally. The next activity will be:

    NAS Rally
    Wednesday 20th September
    12 noon, Cell Block Theatre NAS
    Arrive 1pm State Parliament House, Macquarie St, Sydney
    Orange will signify rally participants.

    NAS Homepage:
    http://www.nas.edu.au/

    Save NAS blog:
    http://nasindependence.blog.com/

    Friends of the National Art School:
    http://www.fonas.com.au/

    Sorry for the super long post. Thanks in advance for any comments/questions/support.
    Last edited by Marcatili; March 1st, 2010 at 10:49 PM.
    Sydney artist Luke Marcatili

    "Fear is the mindkiller..."
    - The Litany Against Fear


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  3. #2
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    Wow dude. It seems this sort of thing is happening a lot. I went to the Atlanta College of Art, and last year SCAD bought us.

    I know what you're going through completly. Good luck with all of that.

    And If I may offer any advice, if this merge/take over happens I suggest that it might be a good idea to look into other schools. More than likely they'll be very sympathetic with the students and teachers and such. I know a few people last year who decided instead of going from ACA to SCAD that they'd rather leave and they recieved either some incredable scholarships or I know two people who got full rides to some great schools.

  4. #3
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    The rally sounds interesting, although that recent media release about the conditions they are basing their negotiations on seem pretty good to me.

  5. #4
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    hey guys, thanks for the replies

    sciboy- if I'm thinking of the same media release you're referring to then it outlines the conditions that the education department have laid down as required for any institution that would take over the school. These include the retention of the atelier model, members of staff etc.

    While those conditions are positive and support the model that NAS operates under, it is still not ideal. It is not hard to imagine those conditions being bent further and further over time, resulting in the slow, gradual dismemberment of the school rather than an immediate change over to the COFA style model.

    It is known that some members of staff at COFA see the atelier model of studio based learning and traditional art making practices (e.g. life drawing) as outdated and redundant. How long would a staff roster with this attitude maintain practices they disagree with?

    Anyway, it'd be great if you could make it out to the rally on Wednesday, the more the merrier.
    Sydney artist Luke Marcatili

    "Fear is the mindkiller..."
    - The Litany Against Fear

  6. #5
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    Well that was a really weird article, I couldn't understand half of it which is probably my fault, But you're going "traditional atelier=good" and the article is going "Academy training=bad" since the Academy was a great big atelier where figure drawing was god, it doesn't make a lot of sense. Your post does make sense in and of itself though, and I wish you the best. It is not always a bad thing when mergers happen...perhaps they want to acquire the school to change their image into more of what the NAS is?

    Best to remain hopeful, diplomatic and outspoken at all time. Even sending letters to the bidder about your concerns...that could help in the future.

    The NAC seems like a good hybrid school. which is ideal. I do wish you the best.
    ---- -
    sehertu mannu narāṭu ina pānāt šagapīru ningishzidda
    abrahadabra

  7. #6
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    Thanks for taking the time to read the article LadyHydralisk...

    To help clear up a little, I think the writer of the article is suggesting that Conceptual art is the new 'Academy' in the sense that it is the predominant 'idea'/ direction/ accepted school of thought (in as broad terms as those are).

    In Courbet's day for example, the Academy was dominated by Romanticism and Classicism, headed by Delcroix and Ingres. In the same way Romanticism and Classicism could have been said to have been 'of the Academy', the writer is suggesting that Conceptual art is the movement most popular or predominant in the art world now.

    So when the writer asserts that Conceptual art is the Academy, I think she is saying that it is the accepted and taught mode of approaching art amongst many established school/university art programs, not to mention galleries. I'm not sure if this is true elsewhere but it seems true here in Sydney.

    Interestingly, while NAS is an atelier style school, there is as much (if not more) encouragement toward abstract and conceptual work as there is traditional.

    Thanks for your support.
    Sydney artist Luke Marcatili

    "Fear is the mindkiller..."
    - The Litany Against Fear

  8. #7
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    NAS is very drawing agressive school, so I have heard from some that graduated from there, so often they try to enforce their ways a little too hard. But it's still lots more better than COFA, UNSW is a business.. you don't even have to have an interview or an art exam to be accepted..

  9. #8
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    hey bumskee,
    I don't know if NAS is a drawing 'aggressive' school but it is a drawing based school with at least 6 hours of drawing a week and 9 hours in first year. In terms of the school forcing their ways, I think it depends on individual teachers. I know that all three of my first year classes had very different teachers with very different opinions and techniques.

    While some people complain that their teachers are too strict, others complain that they don't know what their teacher wants from them. Sometimes these complaints come from the same people about different classes.

    As a general rule, the school kinda looks down on illustration and decorative types of drawing, favouring more observation, process and 'worked' drawings.

    In my experience, these have helped me to develop and strengthen my approach to any illustrational type work I might do now.
    Sydney artist Luke Marcatili

    "Fear is the mindkiller..."
    - The Litany Against Fear

  10. #9
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    hey man, you should look into ashtons. a lot of our teachers are also practising artists, even not for full time but for some life drawing courses i'd recommend it for building your traditional skills.
    I'm usually doing life drawing there a lot its possible to do 9 hours a day if you wish.

  11. #10
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    hey rodrigo!
    Yeah I was gonna mention Ashton's but I thought I'd rambled enough already and it would be irrelevant to anyone not from Sydney.

    When i enrolled in NAS, it was either NAS or Ashton's. I also know some former students of Ashton's who now go to NAS and also one of the life models who works at Ashtons. I also know some of the Sydney guys here at CA were doing lifedrawing there for a while but I was never able to make it.

    I wouldn't mind doing a bit of study there to tighten up some of my technical skills in both drawing and painting at a later stage (i.e. when I can afford it).

    In relation to the NAS situation... While some students that would have otherwise gone to NAS could go to Ashton's, I don't think its big enough to cater for the same number of students that NAS does. Also, because NAS has photography, sculpture, printmaking and ceramics departments, Ashtons wouldn't be able to cater for students hoping to study in those areas.
    The only other place (that I know of) that offers a similar curriculum is Meadowbank TAFE but does not offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts, as NAS does.

    I'm not writing off Ashton's at all, I'm just saying that without NAS there would be a lot of students with more limited study options in the future.

    Anyway, thanks for the invite dude, and of course you're more than welcome to come join the rally on Wednesday if you want to help support the school.
    Sydney artist Luke Marcatili

    "Fear is the mindkiller..."
    - The Litany Against Fear

  12. #11
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    hey everyone
    its a bit late but i thought i'd post a follow up comment regarding the rally for anyone interested. I'd have posted before now but we've been in the middle of assignments and things.

    Anyway...

    The rally went really well. We left NAS at 12 noon under police escort and were lead down the middle of Oxford Street (a pretty major street heading out to Sydney's Eastern Suburbs) and marched down to Hyde Park. I hate to think about the traffic issues caused- the official plan was to stay off the roads but the police lead us onto the road and we were happy to follow. The pedestrians and oncoming traffic seemed to enjoy the spectacle- we were making a lot of noise and were all dressed in orange so we must've looked like a parade.

    Strangely, NAS's symbol is a rooster, kinda like Massive Black. One of our sculptor's made this giant ride-able rooster and one of the printmaking students rode the massive yellow cock all the way down Oxford St and to the front of parliament house.

    We camped out the front of parliament house for several hours and several politicians came out to address the crowd. Members of the Green Party, Liberal Party and Clover Moore (city mayor) spoke.

    We proceeded to the Gallery of NSW for a short time and later some returned to parliament house, where another member of the Greens came out and addressed the crowd.

    Unfortunately for us, the big news of the day included Steve Irwin's funeral and an attempted coup in Thailand, so we didn't get the kind of media coverage we had hoped for. Nevertheless, I personally was approached by five or six people wanting to know about the issues the school were facing, so I'd say we got people's attention.

    If you're interested in seeing photos, some can be found here. This page also has great photos from a totally unrelated Zombie Rights March that took place a few months ago!

    more here
    Sydney artist Luke Marcatili

    "Fear is the mindkiller..."
    - The Litany Against Fear

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