Why Art History Matters

The importance of Art History as a discipline that continuously asks new questions about society, challenges preconceptions around race and gender, and offers a window into the past, cannot be taken lightly. Indeed, it might be a complex subject, but shouldn’t that be the reason to study it? To provide our future generations with new ways of seeing the world?

Next week and beyond, the Art History department at the Open University will be showcasing some of the ways that Art History matters. You’ll have the opportunity to hear a range of voices from alumni, OU academics, & current students to artists, A-level students, and other practitioners. This will come in a variety of forms, from a social media campaign on twitter & Instagram to blogs here on Open Arts Extra.

We’d love to hear from you, so if you have a story to tell that you’d like shared, tag us on social media, and if you’d like to write a blog for us, get in touch with us: openartsobjects@open.ac.uk! Have our open access resources changed the way you think about the world around you? Have our modules been life changing? or have our films provided you new insight into works of art you thought you knew well? If you’re a teacher, have our free teaching resources helped you in your teaching? Whatever it is, we’d like to hear from you!

So a little more about the #whyarthistorymatters campaign:

In autumn 2016, when Art History was removed from the A-level curriculum (temporarily), a campaign was started, utilising the hashtag #whyarthistorymatters. The responses were overwhelming from key academics in the field such as Craig Clunas (Oxford) and Griselda Pollock (Leeds) to Turner Prize artists such as Cornelia Parker and Jeremy Deller, as well as individuals who had taken the subject at A-level or at university and whose lives had been profoundly changed by Art History. While Pearson rose to the task of providing the new qualification with a new global spec and the Association For Art History (formerly AAH) has long been committed to promoting the value of art history and visual culture, we feel that Art History still needs to be recognised as an essential skill in today’s world. The importance of Art History as a discipline that continuously asks new questions about society, challenges preconceptions around race and gender, and offers a window into the past, cannot be taken lightly. Indeed, it might be a complex subject, but shouldn’t that be the reason to study it? To provide our future generations with new ways of seeing the world?

Open Arts Objects, is a project that provides free open access films and teaching materials to support the teaching of Art History at A-level as well as to teach the general public on how to look closely at a wide range of works of art

It is why we have been working hard on Open Arts Objects, a project that provides free open access films and teaching materials to support the teaching of Art History at A-level as well as to teach the general public on how to look closely at a wide range of works of art. This project is part of the current strategy within the Open University to develop a series of public facing initiatives that can help inspire wider and diverse constituencies to enjoy and understand art works and visual culture.

To increase awareness and to widen participation in the discipline, we’ve been creating a series of short films on why art history matters. We’ve asked a wide range of people including academics, curators, teachers, educators, artists, students, and alumni to consider in a single sentence why art history is important to them. We hope that this will also encourage the public to start making their own short films and sharing them on social media (and please do tag us so we can share too!)

Stay tuned for more and follow us on social media!

Why does it matter to you?

The Open Arts Objects team, The Open University

#whyarthistorymatters #openartsobjects #ouarthistory #OUrArtHistory #wahm

Open Arts Objects 

Facebook: Open Arts Objects

Instagram: openartsobjects

twitter: @openartsarchive

 

{why art history matters at the OU}

 

In August, we’ll be showcasing some of the reasons why art history matters to us, here at the OU. Featuring blogposts & films from current students, alumni, curators, academics, artists, and more, it’ll give us a chance to showcase to the world all the reasons why art history matters, and why it’s still important in today’s world.

So stay tuned!

Pearson Exam Board to offer new Art History A level exam from 2017

The recent news that the Art History A-Level is to be saved for future generations to study is very welcome for those of us who believe in providing opportunities for a broad historical and culturally sensitive education. Here at The Open University we have lobbied alongside teachers, other HEIs and the Association of Art Historians to raise awareness about the huge deficit in knowledge and creative opportunities that the dismantling of the arts and humanities subjects at school level could bring.

We are delighted that Pearson will now be offering A-Level Art History. Meanwhile we will continue to use our digital platforms (www.openartsarchive.org) to disseminate the subject to a wider public and to produce educational material, enabling more state schools to offer the provision.

One of the main ways in which we have been doing this is through our project, Open Arts Objects, a series of video podcasts exploring works of art from the Renaissance to the 21st century. Each podcast is a free resource, presented by a specialist and is accompanied by support material for lesson plans. These have been developed in close collaboration with secondary school teachers.

This is a growing resource and an open network, if you are a teacher or education specialist and would like to be involved or know more about Open Arts Objects please get in touch with us at openartsobjects@open.ac.uk

Dr Amy Charlesworth and Professor Gill Perry

Save Art History in the A-level curriculum

Statement from the Art Historians at the Open University

As soon as the news reports about removing Art History from the A level curriculum hit twitter, a campaign was started: #whyarthistorymatters. Responses flooded in from key academics in the field such as Craig Clunas (Professor at Oxford), TV personalities such as Simon Schama as well as individuals who had taken the subject at A-level or at university and whose lives had been profoundly changed by Art History. And then Jonathon Jones wrote an opinionated piece in the Guardian describing the discipline as ‘posh’ and ‘elite’. Fortunately, a better informed response was posted on ‘The Conversation’ by Art Historian Professor Griselda Pollock (Leeds University) showing that axing A-level Art History only amplifies class divides.

One of Art History’s many strengths is that it is fundamentally interdisciplinary. Through the study of art you can learn about gender relations, philosophy, anthropology, sociology or economics, not to mention its important relationship with history. At a time when everyone is glued to their smartphones, looking at images on twitter, Instagram or Facebook, the ability to understand, and more importantly, to be able to analyse critically the wealth of images that bombard us seems more pressing than ever.

The AQA say that the decision has nothing to do with the validity of the discipline, but the difficulty, or the ‘risk’, in teaching it. The discipline has long been seen to be an elitist subject, closely tied to access to museums and galleries, but the Open University has sought to change and challenge this perception. It has provided free online courses alongside a wide range of distance learning undergraduate and postgraduate courses available to non-traditional students—from working parents to seniors who never had the chance to study a degree in the past. The Open University is also leading a new initiative helping to teach the subject in schools—by providing shorts films and teaching materials, increasing the accessibility and outreach of the subject. By so-doing we are hoping to increase the facilities and support available to some hard-pressed state schools, and to increase public understanding of the value of art. In a statement released to teachers the AQA explained the reasons behind their decision:

‘The existing specification is challenging to mark and award because of the specialist nature of the topics, the range of options, difficulties in recruiting sufficient, experienced examiners and limited entries. We had hoped that we could reduce or remove these areas of difficulty in developing the new specification, but this has not proved possible.
We are committed to ensuring the safe and secure delivery of all of our qualifications and, after careful consideration, we have concluded that the delivery risks we currently manage for this subject are not sustainable in the longer term. We have therefore taken the decision not to continue with the redevelopment of this qualification.’

The AQA specifies that they have attempted to reduce ‘these areas of difficulty’ but they have not specified how they have. Indeed, the OU’s new initiative to work with teachers and provide the types of training they would need to teach and examine the subject does not seem to have been known to the AQA or taken into consideration in making this decision.

Art History is a discipline that encourages us to ask questions about how we see the world; by studying visual culture through history, we can reflect on our relationship with society. It can offer a window onto the past, while challenging preconceptions about race, gender and power.  Art History, might be a complex subject, but shouldn’t that be the reason to keep it? At the OU we believe we should be seeking to enable and support the widest possible range of students to study, enjoy and think critically about the world around them, rather than removing opportunities to do so. Given the extraordinary bombardment of visual imagery that we experience on a daily basis in the modern digital era, shouldn’t we be equipping more people to look with a critical eye?  Surely, we should seek to provide future generations with new ways of seeing the world?

Pollock argues that the killing off of art history at A-level is a blow against democratisation:

‘A lack of art history will deprive all young people of opportunities for new kinds of knowledge of the world they live in. It will close down the chance to acquire an understanding of the past and of the present through image and object, place and building, powerful patrons and craftspeople and makers. Far from dismissing this subject because at present it is more often taught in independent schools, we need to be insisting on the value of this way of learning about the world through its cultures, its monuments, its legends, its visual story-telling, its creative imaginations — for all young people in all schools.

For many children in state schools, who may not have the advantages of frequent travel or other occasions to encounter not just art but material culture, this may have been their only opportunity to have these doors opened. And other doors – because art history is a portal to a range of work fields, from high-level art marketing to curation and conservation and, of course, museum and gallery education that is aimed a future generations. And let us also remember that the A-level is also a doorway to architecture and design.’

Many of us working in UK universities have been promoting and disseminating the subject precisely because it has so many academic, cultural and career possibilities. We believe, like Pollock that it is a force for democratisation and high quality learning. Hence the importance of the subject in the curriculum at the OU, an institution committed to open access. The support we are now providing teachers suggests it is an important time to offer this subject to the widest possible range of students—not a moment to pull the plug. Give more people, young and old, the chance to study it.

Dr Leah Clark and Professor Gill Perry

 

OAJ Issue 5: Sustainable art communities: creativity and policy in the transnational Caribbean

OAJ_banner_for_issue5

We are delighted to announce the publication of Issue 5 of the Open Arts Journal.

This themed issue of the Open Arts Journal, ‘Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean’, brings together academics, artists, curators and policymakers from various countries in the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and their diasporas, the UK and the Netherlands. It explores how the understanding and formation of sustainable community for the Caribbean and its global diaspora may be supported by art practice, curating and museums. The collection was developed through a two-year international research project (2012-14) led by Leon Wainwright, with Co-Investigator Kitty Zijlmans (Leiden University), focused on major public events in Amsterdam and London. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO/Humanities).

You can read this online or download it in PDF format now:
https://openartsjournal.org/issue-5/

Study day: Romantic rebellions: From Delacroix to Picasso

National Gallery London
Saturday 23 April, 2016
10.30am–3.30pm

Join speakers including Darren Almond, Simon Lee, Lynda Nead, Christopher Riopelle and  the OU’s Emma Barker and Gill Perry at this study day.

“Romanticism and modern art are one and the same thing” wrote the French poet CharlesBaudelaire in 1846.

This study day, held in collaboration with the Open University, explores the diverse subjects and varied styles of Romantic painting with its ‘intimacy, spirituality, colour’ and ‘yearning for the infinite.’ Curators, art historians and artists discuss Delacroix, Romanticism, and the rise of modern art.

You can book online from the National Gallery’s website.