Celebrated in 160 Art Works
Working Men’s College is proud to present a lively visual art show of 160 small-scale works in the Ruskin Gallery to mark the 160th anniversary of the institution.
Founded in 1854, Working Men’s College is the oldest surviving adult education establishment in Europe. It has a remarkable history as a centre for innovation and excellence in the visual arts. Early supporters included distinguished artists and critics: John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Burne Jones, Holman Hunt, and Ford Maddox Brown who pioneered the revolutionary Arts and Crafts and Pre-Raphaelite movements. 160 years later, the visual arts are still going strong. The work may look very different – there is less paint, charcoal, figurines and scenic vistas, and more photography, collage, and playful experimentation with letterforms and abstraction – but the desire to create, make, and experiment with visual forms and languages is the same. As with our eminent forbearers, we draw inspiration and encouragement from the past, whilst looking ahead, pushing the boundaries of the visual arts, of what we know and think we can do.
All the works in the exhibition have been made by current students, staff, and alumni who, only a month ago, were invited to take part in the project. Everyone, whether just starting out or enjoying careers as successful artists, was encouraged to make a ‘card’ to commemorate and celebrate the college. The response has been overwhelming. Reflecting the diverse range of students and staff, the cards made for the show are immensely creative, varied, and diverse, spanning across several media, including drawing, painting, printmaking, textiles, photography, and performance. Their approaches range from straightforward celebratory greetings and historical testimonies, including archival photographs of our college, to more indirect abstract references and personal memories that explore the visual and emotional landscapes of the environment. Most importantly, every card is unique and personal. This makes for an eccentric, eclectic, and enormously fun exhibition. A warm thank you to everyone who took up the brief and submitted such fantastic works.