Christopher Frayling: Artists are needed to teach

From the 2002 Royal Academy dinner speech by the Rector of the Royal College of Arts
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The Independent Online

I want to alert the Academy to a few things that are currently going on in arts education post-school, my own neck of the woods.

The first is its huge expansion. We need to talk about professional standards in this climate. There's the constant regulation – not to say regimentation – of the sector. And then there's the regular measurement of research within art education

Which leads me to perhaps the most important issue of all. The sad decline in the number of part-time or visiting professional artists who are willing or able to give time to arts courses in higher education.

For much of the 20th century, the involvement of visiting professional artists was taken for granted, perhaps too much. No longer. Of course, you can't blame them. The classes are probably huge, there are lots of forms to fill in, the ideology of instant success makes the students difficult to teach – and some of them want desperately to be understood before they've made anything to understand. They haven't twigged that an unlived life is not necessarily worth examining. You don't get much money for teaching.

But these things said, the involvement of leading professionals – rather than career academics – in the education of young artists is the key to the success of our system of arts education.

I say this to the Academicians assembled here tonight, in all humility. Please continue to put something back into our education system: it's where you came from, and it desperately needs what only you can offer.

To help to define professional standards at a time of massive expansion; to cut through the ideology of instant success and to give the benefit of a life lived through art. But above all, to protect the students from new styles of dogma, new forms of regimentation, new kinds of insularity. And to build bridges between thinkers and doers.

David Hockney once said to me – and he was so right – that art education means being taught by people who have strong views – not necessarily views the student agrees with, but strong views. Lots of them. Views which help the young artist to find his or her own voice, by reacting to them. The cardinal sin is for young artists to be surrounded by sponges, which just absorb everything and go with the flow.

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