Collet - ART COLLECTIONS AND TEACHER EDUCATION Penelope J. Collet by bnmbgtrtr52

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									Australian Journal of Teacher Education



             ART COLLECTIONS AND TEACHER EDUCATION

                                     Penelope J. Collet

                              LaTrobe University, Bendigo

ABSTRACT                                         Art Collections in Early Colleges
My interest in teaching collections began at     The Armidale Teachers’ College in
Geelong Teachers’ College where I did my         northern New South Wales was opened in
undergraduate training. Fellow students          the 1920s. As early as 1873 a need was
seemed to be oblivious to the marvelous          identified for rural teachers’ colleges ‘to
artworks hanging on the walls throughout         alleviate problems of staffing country
the buildings. The opportunity to study the      schools and to stem the drift of students to
F M Courtis Collection, initiated at             urban areas’ (Elphick 1972: 23).
Bendigo Teachers’ College, now part of La        Furthermore, Elphick (1972: 36) argued
Trobe University Bendigo, raised obvious         that a country college was necessary ‘to
questions about the role of these collections    give a sense of reality to practice teaching
in the early teaching colleges and what          for teachers destined for small country
events or factors led to their beginnings.       schools’. Sydney Teachers’ College was
This case study will be situated within a        criticised as being too academic and
broader picture of art collections in            subjects such as Music, Art, Physical
institutions across three states.                Education and Manual Arts were least
                                                 likely to be chosen by students. Armidale’s
Early teachers’ colleges in Australia were       philosophy, derived from Education
established in major capital cities and from     Department policy, was to emphasise the
here graduate teachers set out to meet the       practical subjects.
needs of students in urban and rural areas.
The isolated rural teaching situations with      From the 1890s Melbourne Teachers’
which many were confronted were often            College was the only institution in Victoria
ones of hardship, loneliness and deprivation     to provide teacher training until after World
(Trotman & Hunt 2002). Eventually                War One. The first regional teacher training
colleges were established in regional areas      institutions were established in 1926 in
to provide training for country students, to     Bendigo and Ballarat but were closed down
make their practical experiences more            during the Depression years. These were
relevant and to encourage teachers to stay       not branches of Melbourne Teachers’
in the country. This paper explores the          College but independent institutions.
history of art collections in three early        Towards the end of the Second World War,
teacher training institutions. Within this       the Victorian government predicted the
context, a case study of one country             future need for teachers and as Melbourne
institution is then further developed to shed    Teachers’ College was overcrowded the
light on the influences and factors              decision was taken to reopen the country
contributing to art education philosophy         colleges. Burnett (1973) cites the Victorian
underlying the development of the art            Parliamentary Debates of 19th September,
collection. The implications of this             1944:
knowledge for development of future
policies and research are then considered.       In order to decentralize the training of
                                                 teachers and to provide for the increased
                                                 number of students whom it will be
                                                 necessary to train in the immediate post-

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war period, the Government proposes to re-      the collection should be available in
establish Teachers’ Colleges at Ballarat        perpetuity for the benefit of succeeding
and Bendigo … Apart from any                    generations of the students of the Armidale
consideration     of     the   benefits   of    Teachers’ College (in Elphick 1972: 75).
decentralization      from     a    national
standpoint, it is felt that the provision of    Works donated by students included a
additional training centres will have a very    portrait of Hinton by Norman Carter. At
encouraging effect upon the teaching            one assembly staff stood at doorways to
service.                                        collect donations for artworks as staff and
                                                students left. Hinton insisted that the art
In Western Australia, Claremont College         works be hung all over the College, in
was established in Perth in 1902. Now           corridors, lecture rooms and the auditorium.
virtually closed, it is part of Edith Cowan     ‘He maintained that knowing their value the
University which has three major                students would cherish them and preserve
metropolitan campuses in Perth and one at       them with care’ and as Elphick (1972: 76)
Bunbury as well as study centres in             records: ‘His insight proved correct for no
regional areas of Western Australia such as     painting was ever interfered with and no
Broome and Geralton. For a large part of        painting was ever stolen by a student of the
the twentieth century graduates from            College’. When it was proposed that
Claremont traveled to all corners of            students should commission a portrait of
Western Australian to fulfil their teaching     one of the founders of the College, which
obligations to the Western Australian           was eventually painted by William Dobell,
Government (Bolton & Byrne 2001).               while a student in London, the principal
                                                appealed to the students’ collegial spirit:
Central to the philosophies of some early
teachers’ colleges was the notion of            The names of contributors will be placed on
‘enculturation’ and the need to provide an      the back of the picture and preserved for all
appropriate ‘cultured atmosphere’ for the       time. Try to visualize the time, say, a
training of young people. This was              hundred years hence, when the walls of the
important because it led to the development     Armidale University will be adorned with
of the art collections in these institutions    pictures of its benefactors, and think that
that today are substantial educational and      your gift was the earliest. By so doing you
financial assets as well as the means by        will endow the College, commemorate the
which institutional identities are portrayed.   work of a great man, and honour yourself
                                                (Newling in Elphick 1972: 77).
The art collection at Armidale Teachers’
College began with the donations of             In the 1920s in Melbourne, Arthur Law, the
benefactor, Howard Hinton. He saw the art       new principal of Melbourne Teachers’
works ‘as a Decoration of that fine             College, initiated the purchase of works for
building’ (in Elphick 1972: 75). From 1929      an art collection. The influence of
to 1948 Hinton gave more than one               Melbourne Teachers’ College and the AJ
thousand works to the college, his intention    Law Collection will be shown to be central
being:                                          to the development of collections in the
                                                Victorian country colleges. Lecturers at the
… to provide a complete collection              new colleges had been trained in many
illustrating the development of Australian      cases at Melbourne and were inspired by
art from 1880 onwards, and my action in         this art collection. Phillip Law (1999: 3)
making the gift to Armidale Teachers’           outlined his father’s philosophy about
College was prompted by my great interest       providing a suitable environment for the
in Australian education and my desire that      training of teachers:


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Arthur Law believed not only that the           In Victoria during the 1950s, colleges
College should extend the cultural              developed on many regional and suburban
backgrounds of its students, but that the       sites to meet the need for teachers in
teachers graduating from the College,           Victoria. Tom Wells (2001: 1), Curator of
moving out into country regions, should         the State College of Victoria Geelong and
help spread culture in rural communities        then Deakin University Art Collection,
through the pupils in their care. So he         referred to the importance of his training at
decided to acquire good paintings, by           Melbourne Teachers College and the
reputable Australian artists, to adorn the      exposure he had to the A J Law Collection
walls of the College rooms and hallways.        there:

To finance the Collection, Arthur Law           My experiences in this area go back to my
placed a five shilling levy on each student     formative years of training as an art teacher
entering the College. At the seventy-fifth      at Melbourne Teachers’ College in the
anniversary of the College, F C Mellow          1950s, and continued with my employment
(Lecturer-in-Charge of Art and Crafts)          at Frankston State College and then
made the following remarks about the A J        Geelong State College.
Law Collection:
                                                In each of these organisations the primary
The growth of this collection is symbolic. It   aim of the art collection was to expose
began at the instigation of a man who           students (and staff) to artefacts [sic] for
would be the first to say that he had very      their awareness raising potential to foster an
little knowledge of art work and the value      interest in the arts. As collections grew they
of art work. But he had no doubt                were seen to be a valuable asset to the
whatsoever of the value such a collection       organisation and served to show that our
would have in a place like a teachers           culture as perceived through the visual arts
college, where thousands of teachers would      was an important dimension of tertiary
live with these pictures over a period of       education.
time, and then would disperse over the
length and width of Victoria (in “A Tribute     At Bendigo Teachers’ College in 1955, F M
to A J Law” 1969).                              Courtis, lecturer in Art Education, acquired
                                                the first art works which were to be the
Postwar developments                            start of a valuable and significant teaching
At Claremont College the art collection was     resource. While the new College at
started in 1947 when this college was still     Pleasant Vale (Flora Hill) was being
the only institution to provide teacher         planned Courtis began collecting.
training in Western Australia. The
principal, Thomas Sten, allocated funds to      With Len Pryor who was principal at the
purchase art works and over the next            time, I was able to take part in meetings
decade three major gifts of art works were      with the architects in planning the new
made by Claude Hotchin, a gallery owner         college which was to be at Pleasant Vale. I
(Archer 2001). As Bryant McDiven, who           was well aware of course of the large areas
lectured in art at Claremont in the fifties     of bare walls that we would be confronted
explained, ‘Tom Sten was disturbed by the       with and a long range thought was to put
lack of “cultural tone” in the college          on these walls art works that would reflect
environment so he introduced a most active      a cultured atmosphere … Now the idea was
campaign to enrich the walls with               probably influenced by a small amount by
paintings, drawings and original prints’ (in    my earlier contact with A J Law Collection
Bolton & Byrne 2001: 54).                       at the Melbourne Teachers’ College. So I


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put the idea to Len Pryor who was most          discussions about various aspects of art. It
enthusiastic and that was really the            was just a matter of about three minutes
beginning of the exercise (Transcript of        walk from the college (Transcript of
interview December 2000).                       interview December 2000).

The accounts here convey the belief that        With the move to Pleasant Vale distance
teachers, trained in the city, required         made it difficult to visit the Art Gallery so
exposure to the arts so they could spread       the art collection commenced by Courtis
culture in rural communities. Also present      allowed students and staff daily contact
was the assumption that country students        with art works:
required enculturation perhaps because
access to original art works had been           In the beginning, with only a few paintings,
denied to them in their schooling and           the only choice was to put them in a place
family experiences because of distance from     where the students often went and generally
major centres or because country education      individually, and they had time to look at
and life were deficient in the civilising       these few paintings that we had in the early
aspects of city life. In country teachers’      stages, and that was the administration area.
colleges then contact with original art         But of course the long term aim was to use
works was seen to be particularly important     the Collection as a teaching resource and
to enrich student teachers’ experiences.        gradually the works spread thoughout the
                                                College (Transcript of interview December
Within this broad brush picture of art          2000).
collections initiated in institutions across
three states that I have painted, I would now   The intentions of earlier philanthropists and
like to make a more detailed study to depict    administrators, such as Hinton, Law and
the influences, people and events that have     Sten, were for collections in colleges to
contributed to the growth of one collection     “decorate” or “adorn” the walls and to
in particular, the F M Courtis Collection.      provide “a cultured atmosphere”. Through
                                                the 1950s a greater emphasis appears to be
The F M Courtis Collection                      placed on the works as a teaching resource.
From 1951, the Bendigo Teachers’ College        F M Courtis recalls the importance of
provided teacher training for a large part      original artworks for discussion and
of country Victoria. The first postwar          instruction. Art staff begin to speak of the
location of the College at Camp Hill, in the    importance of the works as teaching
city centre, was of particular benefit to the   collections. What were the changes in art
Art staff and to the students. The Lecturer     education that influenced this shift?
in Art Education, Mr Fred Courtis, recalled
how in the early years the Bendigo Art          In Melbourne the United Nations
Gallery lent the College art works to           Educational and Cultural Organization
brighten up their temporary location and to     (hereafter UNESCO) Art Seminar of 1954
provide an atmosphere of cultural               had an important impact on art education
enrichment for all:                             in the state and eventually across the
                                                country. This seminar on “The Role of the
When the college was at Camp Hill I was         Visual Arts in Education” was held at the
able to borrow paintings from the Art           Women’s College, Melbourne University
Gallery to hang in our lecture rooms. Those     and directed its attention specifically to art
paintings had to go back when we moved          education needs in Australia (Smith 1958:
out to Pleasant Vale which was about 3          vii). The impetus for this came from the
miles away. From Camp Hill it was easy to       1951 UNESCO art education seminar held
take students to the Art Gallery to have        in Bristol, UK. According to John Steers


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Australian Journal of Teacher Education


(1999: 1), the 1951 seminar was the result      Believing that the neglect of the arts is a
of    UNESCO’S       earlier   educational      betrayal of an educational trust can
conferences during which ‘resolutions were      produce, if sufficiently general, an
adopted to inquire into art education’.         unimaginative, uncreative and emotionally
Steer concludes that from all accounts Sir      sick community and Believing that
Herbert Read was the ‘key figure’.              standards of taste are lower in Australia
                                                than most other countries Considers that
In 1954 in Paris, the First General             standards must be raised and the
Assembly of The International Society of        environment made aesthetically stimulating
Education Through Art (hereafter InSEA)         through advice of experts in the various
had been opened by Sir Herbert Read who         field of art, architecture, cartography,
spoke on the “Future of Art Education”.         domestic design etc.
The idealism of the Assembly at the time is
reflected in the Preamble to its                The Seminar recommended that all
Constitution:                                   Australian universities should establish
                                                chairs of Fine Arts. Importantly the
Education through art is a natural means of     Seminar noted:
learning at all periods of the development
of the individual, fostering values and         Every     individual    and     organization
disciplines essential for full intellectual     connected with art education should
emotional and social development of             continually draw the attention of the public
human beings in a community… (in Steers         to the fact that a reproduction can never
1999: 2).                                       take the place of an original work of art (in
                                                Smith 1958: 91).
Following on from the 1954 Melbourne
Seminar, Bernard Smith (1958) published         Prior to the Melbourne Art Education
Education Through Art in Australia. With        Seminar in 1954, art collections were seen
an introduction by Sir Herbert Read, this       to serve important roles decorating and thus
became an important text in disseminating       creating a certain type of “cultured”
Read’s philosophy about education through       atmosphere in places of learning. Also that
art and the principles and aims of              at Armidale, Melbourne and Claremont
UNESCO and InSEA thoughout the art              Teachers’ Colleges there was a recognition
education community of the late fifties. As     that students (and staff) would benefit from
Doug Boughton (1989: 200) reports:              the enrichment in and the knowledge about
                                                Australian cultural heritage gained through
The proceedings from this conference            exposure on a daily basis to original art
reflected strong support for creative           works. Other values associated with the
expression as the major aim of art education    collections included what Principal George
in Australian schools … This support was        Muir of Armidale described as ‘the
expressed by artists, teachers, inspectors,     historical significance of the collection, a
and administrators, who met at the              great act of patronage of art, College
conference to discuss for the first time the    sentiment and public pride in the collection’
intended outcomes for art education in this     (Elphick 1989: 80). Following the 1954
country.                                        Melbourne seminar greater emphasis would
                                                be placed on a third role, that is using the
The Melbourne Seminar (in Smith 1958:           artworks as teaching collections for the
86-91) came to a number of resolutions          instruction of students about media, style,
aimed at reforming and reconceptualising        technique and art history.
art education in schools, in teacher training
colleges, and in the public domain:


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The delegates to the Melbourne Conference          daily contact with all works of good quality
conveyed its resolutions to teacher training       that the student is better able to develop
and art colleges across Victoria. As Bryan         individual taste, knowledge and pride in
Clemson (2001), past curator of the Courtis        our cultural heritage and environment.
Collection, recalls there was regular
communication between the colleges                 Clemson’s belief that daily contact was
through        seminars,        professional       beneficial to staff and the wider
organisations and friendships, so it can be        community, and also for the enrichment of
assumed that these ideas travelled quickly         academic programs was supported by the
and were adopted across Victoria.                  third curator of the Collection, Lyndon
                                                   Langan. He believed that by surrounding
So it was these changes in art education that      beginning teachers with lovely things
influenced the shift from artworks as              ‘some of that aesthetic must rub off. And
‘decoration’ to artworks as teaching               we were all very keen to have our
collections. The importance of original art        beginning teachers teaching art to children
works for education in art, the need for           because we had a firm belief in what art can
enculturation of young people training to be       do for growing kids’ (2000 transcription of
teachers in a country where the arts had           videoed talk).
been neglected, the need for greater access
to art collections, and the perceived need         Although there was never a formal
for the prioritising of the Arts in curricula at   acquisitions policy the curators agree that
all levels developed as the premises that          some works in the Collection were
guided art education in the fifties. The           particularly selected because of their
acquisition of original art works by the           contribution in teaching students about the
regional post-war teachers’ colleges then          processes of art making including
can be seen as a response to, and a natural        techniques, design and composition, and
consequence of, this rationale for art             others to represent different periods in
education.                                         Australian art history. As Bryan Clemson
                                                   (2001) recollected: ‘The lecturing staff
In 1986 the F M Courtis Collection went on         wrote into courses specific study germane
show at the Bendigo Art Gallery to mark            to the art collection. So that everyone had
the tenth anniversary of the Bendigo               to make a study of the works on the wall or
College of Advanced Education. The                 on display, and use the library’.
exhibition comprised mainly Australian
works from colonial through Australian             While the first acquisitions belonged to the
impressionist,     early    modernist     and      landscape genre followed by early
contemporary works. A focus was the                examples of Modernism in Australia, by the
recently purchased Leonard French suite of         sixties acquisitions included expressionism
prints, The Journey. Bryan Clemson (1986)          and abstraction. Increasingly, the Collection
wrote     in    the     catalogue,    entitled     was viewed as a teaching resource, not only
Foundations, that ‘cultural literacy is an         for art education staff, but also social
essential factor for better understanding of       studies, outdoor education and literature.
ourselves’. In a country institution:              The important collection of artefacts, on
                                                   loan from John Bradley and the Yanyuwa
[c]lose contact with the arts can provide          aboriginal community, and the small
insight into the foundations of the culture        collection of traditional bark paintings have
and enable us to interpret our subsequent          been an invaluable resource in the
patterns of social change. We gain a better        Indigenous Studies program, which in the
understanding of what it means to be               past has assisted in the preparation of
Australia … We contend that it is from the         students for teaching in indigenous


Vol. 28, No.2, Nov. 2003                                                               6
Australian Journal of Teacher Education


communities. Today it is used to address          policy that is developed and upon planning
issues in Australian art history and theory       for student and community access either
from a post-colonial standpoint, as well as       through the actual gallery space or through
to better inform students about traditional       a virtual electronic gallery.
indigenous culture.
                                                  The questions raised in this research about
The Future                                        the role and place of collections in the early
Currently the Collection is used in both the      teaching colleges have led to a sound
primary and secondary teacher education           understanding of the educational bases for
programs. Specific assignments are given          their development. This understanding now
including critical studies of the work of         provides a departure point for future
represented artists and craftspeople, talks       research in art education and a foundation
given on the works to peers, and units of         on which policy can be developed for the
work based on the use of a collection as a        best use of the Collection in the future.
teaching aid.
                                                  The notion or belief that enculturation
Importantly, the Collection has the potential     occurs through contact with art works, by
to generate debate about the use of adult art     ‘rubbing off’ or by some sort of osmosis is
in the education of children. I would like to     an assumption that needs investigating. My
use an example from Reggio Emilia in Italy        research, concerned primarily with the
to illustrate this last point. In Paulo Freire    history of the F M Courtis Collection has
School (for 3 to 6 year olds) there was a         not done this. It is an important direction
large work taking up all one wall by Italian      that needs researching.
contemporary conceptual artist, Walter
Valentini. Based on the concept of ‘time’, it      Importantly the spirit of the intentions of
was seen as a stimulus for children’s             the early art educators needs to be
conversations about the work and about            recognized in decision making so that
time, and a stimulus for their own works.         collections continue to educate students
Time is evident in the use of the pendulum        about the role of visual art in their lives and
and plumb lines. The children had renamed         the lives of their future students.
it the ‘dance of the strings’. It was seen as a
means of bringing contemporary artistic           References
culture into the school. Children were not
expected to copy any aspect of the work but       Archer, A. (2001). The Edith Cowan
to develop understandings about the range         University Art Collection. A Brief history.
of expressive languages and the courage           In A. Archer (Ed.), The Edith Cowan
and freedom needed to be an artist. The           University Art Collection Book of Days.
aterierista, the artist employed in the           Mount Lawley, WA: Edith Cowan
school, emphasised again that the work was        University.
a basis for conversations only, not for
copying adult artists, but for recognising        Bendigo College of Advanced Education
another’s individual expression. So the re-       (1986). Foundations: Bendigo College of
examination of the place of art works and         Advanced Education’s F. M. Courtis
collections in the education of children is       Collection. Bendigo: BCAE.
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teachers are responsive to changes in art         Churchlands,     WA:    Edith   Cowan
education theory. These decisions about the       University.
Collection will impact upon any acquisition


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                                                  Australian Journal of Teacher Education


Boughton, D. (1989). The Changing Face        Gallery 18/5/1999. A. J. Law File, Ian
of Australian Art Education: New Horizons     Potter Museum of Art, University of
or Sub-Colonial Politics. Art Education,      Melbourne, Australia.
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                                              Potter Museum of Art, University of
Clemson, B. (2001). Interview transcript.     Melbourne, Australia.

Courtis, F. M. (2000). Interview transcript   Smith, B. (Ed.) (1958). Education through
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Collection, speech given at Gryphon




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