Cardiff without artists?

Just a quick update on my last blog as there’s a lot of rumour and speculation flying around about the future of the Fine Art Course and the Sculpture Pathway in particular.

Here’s the latest press statement from UWIC:

UWIC is committed to ensuring that current students on CSAD programmes have every opportunity to continue their studies unaffected by the changes in the School.  To that end, measures will be put in place to ensure the delivery of the established curriculum to its conclusion in 2013 and that this will be of a high order, as is to be expected.

UWIC is currently engaged in a consultation process on academic staff appointments and no further comment will be made on this.

It is however important to say that suggestions that ‘75% of the staff in fine art have been sacked’ and that ‘88% of the cuts’ are falling on Fine Art are gross exaggerations, unnecessarily alarmist and extremely unhelpful manipulations of the facts.

This was in response to the posting on facebook, which has since been taken down after pressure was exerted.  Now I’ve been working with figures for many years and been in similar situations where I’ve been surrounded by people facing redundancies and an uncertain future and know that percentages and statistics can, as the old adage goes, be tortured until they tell you what you want to hear.

There are lots of sneaky things that can be done under what is euphemistically termed as “slotting in” or “redeployment”.

If the current exercise involves shunting existing staff to other departments within CSAD, but outside Fine Art, or the counting members of staff as one, even if they have .5  (ie half time status) then maybe the figures won’t look so bad – on paper.

I should, at this point, make it really clear that I have not gone after any members of staff for information, as I am keenly aware that their position is extremely vulnerable during the negotiation period. These observations are informed by too many years of experience.

Instead I’d like us all to be very clear about what is being lost if CSAD neuters its respected fine art department and what the closure of the Fine Art & Photography BA in Newport actually means:

While the sciences and design departments are very happy to track their students and report back on successes, there’s been very little done, in recent times, to actually find out what impact fine art graduates have on the cities and towns where they choose to study but, after over 25 years around this stuff, I can tell you that they:  Set up studio spaces, reinvigorating unloved buildings,  helping to create a new buzz around run-down areas; work in galleries; work in education at all levels; make scenery and props for the performing arts companies in Wales; take part in regeneration projects; work in communities; create festivals and one-off events that raise the profile and tourism offer of their area; promote Wales, through their hyper-active networking and exhibiting –  especially on the international stage – as a vibrant place, forward thinking and a good place to live and work.

I give you: g39, WARP, ARC, tactileBosch, Oriel Canfas, Bay Art, Trace Collective (and until recently Trace Gallery),  Milkwood, Kings Rd Studios, Fireworks Studios, Fox Studios and, amongst many others, Chapter Arts Centre, set up by a group of artists 40 years ago.

Message received, I’m sure, by faithful blog friends. But let’s get that message out to those who can make a change. So far the Welsh Assembly Government have let the universities sort things out as they struggle to comply with the new regional plans for HE and with the student and funding caps imposed on them. Instead of some rational thinking there’s been a lemming-like dive over a cliff. Let’s also be clear, in England the (Westminster) Government has been less arts-friendly and a great swathe of institutions dedicated to the arts and humanities are facing 100% cuts (not a slip of the finger, really, 100%), so there’ll be hordes of students who could have been attracted to more enlightened Wales … but there are now very few places for them to go to, and those institutions still standing can only offer a limited number of places. And let’s remember that Wales sees its future in the Creative Industries.

If you’re as exercised by this as I am then this is where you should email or write:

UWIC Board of Governers:
Mr. Richard Walters
Clerk to the Board of Governors
Chair: Mr John Wynn Owen
PO Box 377, Western Avenue,
Cardiff CF5 2SG
Telephone: 029 2041 6072?
e-mail: rwalters@uwic.ac.uk

And the Education Minister for Wales:

Leighton Andrews
Minister for Education Welsh Assembly Government
Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills
3rd Floor, Pillar MO1/02
Welsh Assembly Government
Cathays Park
Cardiff, CF10 3NQ
leighton.andrews@wales.gov.uk

We have a brief  window (just over a week) to make our voices heard. After that we’ll have to consider a future where there are no up-and-coming artists in our capital city and don’t forget Newport, already battered by the recession and about to lose the Passport Office.

And if you need some grist to add to the mill of your protest, have a look at and quote the Visual Arts Blueprint, produced by C&C Skills, published only two years ago.

NB: There’s no picture with this post – there’s a message in there somewhere.

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One thought on “Cardiff without artists?

  1. Very well put. I urge anyone reading, please do send messages to the individuals named above with your views on the current situation, we do really need to explore all democratic means and methods before considering the alternatives. Personally i believe that the current trend for taking to the streets with a general antagonism agsinst ‘the system’ is likely to prove counter productive to the particular concerns that the artistic community in Wales currently face. (you may disagree x)

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