This year the unique and innovative part time community Fine Art Programme at Bangor University (1998-2022) is closing. Artwork by 25 tutors who have taught at all levels including BA and MA is gathered together for this celebratory farewell exhibition.
Celebrating Fine Art
In 1998 the artist and Professor Mike Knowles, previously Head of Fine Art at Liverpool School of Art and Design, was invited by the Lifelong Learning Department at Bangor University to develop a Fine Art BA programme from existing community art classes. The new part-time Adult Learners’ course was the first in the UK to offer a Community-based art degree without the backup of an art school building and technicians. It received a number of awards including the NIACE Award for Innovation and Excellence.
The lack of traditional facilities and structures demanded innovative teaching practices to enable students to have the kind of high quality learning experience that they needed and deserved. All tutors on the Fine Art Programme were required to be practicing and exhibiting artists. Mike’s innovative underlying principle was to support students to develop a sustainable practice in their own homes and localities so the embedded nature of their practice would continue seamlessly as professional artists after graduation.
The tutors went out into community halls, teaching people as close as possible to their homes, including home studio visits to help students make the most of available space and facilities for art practice in a domestic situation.
Free standing modules and BA courses were delivered in a wide variety of community venues in north Wales, including Bangor, Ynys Mon, Porthmadog and Penrhyn Bay. The part-time MA was in Bangor. The success of the constantly adapted model developed by Mike and the other tutors is evidenced by the long standing collaborations and active practicing local artists that have emerged from these part time courses. The aims were not just idealistic, but genuinely worked.