Paisley School of Arts | Est. 1838 : A Living Archive Project

Paisley School of Arts | Est. 1838 : A Living Archive Project

Background

In 1808, a group of local community figures came together to establish the Paisley Philosophical Institution. This collective vision recognized that there was a growing desire in Paisley, and the wider area, to support and provide cultural and educational development to the town’s inhabitants. The group were particularly conscious of a rich historical legacy, alongside burgeoning and emerging talent, within the community. In response to this, they drew up a set of guiding principles, including a determination to “realise the potential contribution that creativity can make to education, social inclusion and quality of life”.
Playing a significant role in the cultural and creative development of Paisley, and beyond, the membership of Paisley Philosophical Institution supported proactive discussion and the establishment of key cultural resources within the community. The Public Library, Museum and Observatory, now Local Authority responsibilities, are still in use to this day.

Paisley School of Art

An important, yet often forgotten part of this story is the foundation of Paisley School of Arts, established by the Paisley Philosophical Institution in 1838. As an interesting aside, this predates the formation of Glasgow School of Art by a number of years. The development of Paisley School of Arts evolved over the years. From its origins as Paisley School of Arts; a Government School of Art and Design at 14 Gilmore Street, it then grew in size to form the School of Arts and Science. This led to amalgamation with local technical education provision to form the Paisley Technical College and School of Art on Gordon Street and has now developed as part of the multi-campus educational presence of the University of the West of Scotland.
Celebrating a legacy and lineage of creative education
Last year saw the redevelopment and launch of the BA(Hons) New Media Art programme at UWS. At the heart of this programme, students discover and develop their own artistic practices through exploration of diverse platforms from illustration, moving image, animation, multimedia live performance/installation, projection mapping, sound art, creative coding and immersive media (360 Filming/AR/VR). Through learning and exploring historical, contemporary, cultural and social contexts of New Media Art, students become ‘Technical’, ‘Critical’ and ‘Creative’ practitioners. With the ongoing emergence of new and innovative arts training at the University, Paisley can claim to have a long and significant presence in the provision of creative education in Scotland. Here, the University of the West of Scotland forms part of this fascinating timeline.


Paisley School of Arts | Est. 1838 : A Living Archive Project

Mr Trent Kim (Proramme Leader) and Dr Rachael Flynn (Lecturer), staff from the BA(Hons) New Media Art programme, along with Ms Anne Gifford (Head of Arts & Media), were recently awarded funding from Renfrewshire Council, through the Culture, Heritage and Events Fund, in order to explore this creative history.

Recognizing the significance of Paisley School of Art, as an important and pioneering presence within the community, the project will focus on this educational and cultural institution, where there is evidence of a longstanding and a continuing flow and flourish of local creativity, with global impact. Whilst national focus and spotlight have been placed elsewhere, this project seeks to reassert the significance of this long-established creative community, which continues to innovate. As we move towards a new chapter in the creative and cultural history of Paisley, with the current £100 million investment of Paisley Town centre, this project will contribute to the reimagined vision of Paisley.

Their project will involve archival research, a series of public workshops, and a culminating Summer School for local school aged children located at the historic site of the Art School on Gordon Street. This work will build to form a Living Archive, across various historic and contemporary sites of interest, recognizing, reasserting, and reimagining the vision and determination of these local figures and a community who believed in the potential for their cultural wealth to create CULTURAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL change.
You can follow the progress of this project via their Social Media channels which are launching this month! https://www.instagram.com/psoa1838/

Memorialisation, Heritage & Funding at Fort Jesus, Mombasa

Memorialisation, Heritage & Funding at Fort Jesus, Mombasa

As part of the delivery of  cultural heritage training workshops that took place in Mombasa, Kenya from 12-16 November 2019 – as part of the British Council funded Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth project – Drs Stephen Collins and Allan Moore took a trip to Fort Jesus with colleagues from Mount Kenya University and workshop participants .

Built on the orders of the Portuguese between 1593 and 1596, Fort Jesus was taken over by Omani Arabs in 1698 and then the British in 1895. In 1631, the fort briefly fell under the control of the Sultan Yusuf ibn al-Hasan of Mombasa. Under the British, the site was used as a prison. Subsequently, the fort was declared a historical monument in 1958 and given UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011. Thus, as a site, it has had a colourful and contested history.

The purpose of the trip was to consider the UNESCO world heritage site, and Mombasa’s dominant monument, in terms of what had been discussed in the preceding workshops. Participants were invited to consider the site in terms of formal and informal uses of the space, who had the right to use the space, how heritage was foregrounded or promoted and what kinds of narratives were evident.

The following day, the conversation in which we reflected on these themes with reference to the fort was one of the highlights of the week. Curated by Dr Moore, participants identified several areas that they now felt were questionable in terms of how the space was presented. For example, they identified that there was very little mention of the local community in any of the displays, instead it was as though the fort had simply been a site of chronological occupation by foreign powers with no connection to the people living and working outside the gates.

Dr Stephen Collins speaking at the Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth workshop

Secondly, they identified that in the section recently renovated by a grant from the Oman government, there was a series of mannequins in traditional Omani dress. In spite of the presence of the mannequins, there was no critical information of the role that Omani Arabs played in the Arabic slave trade or the lives of the indigenous population. In fact, there was no mention of the role of the fort in slavery at all.

Similarly, the British presence, which lasted over several decades, was characterised as being administratively and scientifically progressive, rather than part of a theatre of imperial power.

As we left, we spotted a large group of school children arriving to view the site for themselves; they ran around the large expanses of grass and clambered over the crumbling walls. Over the following week, we pondered large questions concerning how funding has implications for which stories are told, how uncomfortable stories are passed down and whether or not historical sites need to have their history sanitised in order to be accessible.