Ruth E. Lyons profiles ‘Mercedes Fire’, an artist-led seven-day touring summer school.
As it becomes increasingly the norm for more art colleges to offer the continued study of visual arts practices at masters and doctorate level, there is a greater demand on artists to obtain higher levels of academic qualifications. I am interested what effect this increase in time spent by artists in development within institutes of education has on the character of contemporary art.
Colleges can provide a shelter for artists – giving them space to develop – but these institutions also inform, passing down knowledge and perpetuating schools of thought. Past a certain point in the development of one’s art practice, I’ve been wondering if the shelter of the art college actually encourages a shirking of responsibilities? Shouldn’t artists claim independent agency over their own learning?
In light of these questions, I have become interested in alternative models of learning and peer critique – that can offer an alternative to formal education while still providing a sense of community and collaboration. As I personally experienced in the course of the ‘Mercedes Fire’ summer school 2010 (1), there is an amazing sense of generosity and camaraderie within the art community in Ireland, which openly invites the free formation of alternative models of social engagement and learning within it.