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175 years of creativity and applied learning

Tuesday 10 July 2018

On the 1st July 1843, the Sheffield Government School of Design opened in the Bath Saloon a public hall above one of Sheffield's original swimming baths. To celebrate the 175th anniversary, the current Sheffield Institute of Art has launched a new book to celebrate a long tradition of pioneering education and creative applied artistic practice.

'Sheffield Institute of Arts - 175 Years' tells the story of evolution of Sheffield's oldest higher education institution from 1843. The original school had a pioneering role in women's education, who attended from the start, although uptake was initially low. By 1848 around 180 students were on the roll and growth into the 1900s and beyond was intermittent, when the institution became the Sheffield Technical School of Art, focusing on practical trades and crafts.

The School soon garnered many notable alumni including Godfrey Sykes (Sculptor), Elizabeth Siddal (Artist), James Dowd (Cartoonist) and Harry Epworth Allen (Landscape Artist). The school moved to many different sites, taking on more diverse courses such as sculpture and teacher education. It is most famously known as the College of Art on Psalter Lane from 1951, a sense of place and community which lives strongly in those alumni who studied in the leafy avenues up from Hunters Bar. This generation of students gained international success astonishingly quickly with painters Jack Smith and Derrick Greaves representing Britain in the 1956 Venice Biennale.

In 1969 Sheffield Polytechnic, which formed from Sheffield College of Art and Sheffield Technical College, was one of the first three to be established in the UK. It was also home to the first degree courses in Film, Photography and Communication Studies. The Film Studies course was key, establishing links to the Sheffield Independent Film group and an independent film studio developed out of this. Sheffield is still on the map for Film hosting the annual Sheffield Doc/Fest, the world leading and the UK’s premier documentary festival, celebrating the art and business of documentary and all non-fiction storytelling.

Sheffield City Polytechnic went on to trail blaze the way for students to bring video editing into their artistic practice which paved the way to connect Sheffield's music scene and its visual culture. Some of you will remember Psalter Lane's aptly named Wham Bar as the first venue for a local band called the Human League in 1978.

The Polytechnic was granted university status in 1992, becoming Sheffield Hallam University. Today the Sheffield Institute of Art has taken up home in the Head Post Office building which is where this year's Final Year Degree Show for creative courses took place. A number of show stopping exhibits from graduating students from fashion through to product design and fine art were showcased over the Degree Show fortnight. The public exhibition brings together alumni, students, staff and industry partners and is a key event in our calendar, made extra special this year as we have celebrated our 175 year anniversary.

Copies of the 175 Years book are available to purchase here if you want to read more about the rich history of art education in the city.

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