The Open Source Art School is a seed site for arts education. It is a small part of what an art school should be. Visual art as a discipline is grounded in physical space and face to face interactions. It involves cultivating spatial and relational intelligence. The OSAS – in its online form – can’t provide these aspects of art education, instead it offers seeds for growing the kinds of spatial and social activities that produce interesting art.
The OSAS emerges from the context of shrinking horizons for visual arts education in Sydney, Australia. In 2008 the art school at University of Western Sydney closed. In 2016 it was announced that Sydney College of the Arts would merge with UNSW Art and Design. While this merger has been averted Sydney is still faced with the very real prospect of going from four art schools in 2008 to just one a decade or so later. Aside from the number of art schools there are pressing questions about the quality of arts education that can be offered in institutions that have all but abandoned studio arts practice as a discipline. Both the closure of art schools and the undermining of studio arts practice are unprecedented attacks by university management on visual arts culture.
In the face of this indifference on the part of universities to the value of visual arts education the OSAS affirms the diversity and value of pedagogical and artistic practice that Sydney’s art schools have produced. We do this by publishing the archive of projects that Terry Hayes produced over the course of more than twenty years of teaching visual art at UWS. Terry’s archive is a rich resource in its own right but it is just a fraction of a much larger history that includes the teaching practice of so many who lectured at UWS, the ways that students responded to each of these projects, and the place in the broader context of the UWS art school as a whole. The archive also speaks to Terry’s remarkable creativity in the practice of teaching artists. Given the indifference of university management to the sort of knowledge that this archive represents it becomes important for this knowledge to continue in other forms. Just as Svalbard Global Seed Vault under the Arctic ice in Norway provide a small insurance against the destruction diversity in plants the OSAS is a small piece of insurance against the destruction of a culture and pedagogical tradition by universities.
In this way – and thanks to Terry Hayes generosity in providing his archive to get this site started – the OSAS can be seen as a kind of conceptual commons of knowledge around art making and pedagogy. However if we also recognise the importance of space to the discipline then we must have a commons of physical spaces in which the seeds of creative thinking can take root. This is why it is so important to fight to maintain the spaces in which art making and art education occur so that visual art practice may never be reduced to activities that can be done sitting at a desk.