n De Arte - The art of design : curriculum policy and the fine art vs. design debate at Michaelis School of Fine Art, 1925-1972 : research




This article opens by questioning the narrowness of our modern usage of the term 'art', and the consequences for our understanding of the 'art school'. It takes as its case study the curriculum policy of Cape Town's Michaelis School of Fine Art, from its inception up to 1972. Specifically, it examines the institution's longstanding resistance to the idea of a broad curriculum including a range of design subjects, closely allied to a school of architecture. This resistance is attributed to the widespread belief of the time that, outside of the 'hard' sciences, universities should not teach primarily vocational skills and that design belonged within the social and educational world of technical colleges instead. It is noted that Michaelis modeled itself for many years on the Slade School of Fine Art and that only one director, Rupert Shephard, seriously attempted to question this model. After Shephard's departure, it is argued, Michaelis reverted to a relatively narrow fine art curriculum, divorced from most aspects of design practice as well as from architecture - a curriculum which persists to the present day.


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