Whay does NAS, The National Art School, attract neo- conservative reactionaries?

Traditional artistic values ( drawing/skill based training) is what attracts many people to NAS, The National Art School, Sydney. Unfortunately, this yearning for "the good old days" when art was "proper" reflects deeply conservative tendencies. The majority of the students are otherwise open minded and liberal in their other political views, but there is a vocal minority ( like the moral majority in the US). What is it about reactionaries? Why do they get so nasty and aggressive about everything? The complete rejection of contemporary art because its not like the good old days is one example of the closed mindedness of some NAS staff and students. The irony is that contemporary art has always been attacked by reactionaries at the time it was produced. The impressionists were roundly attacked by other artists of the day still creating work from the previous century. The reactionaries at NAS now say that its this era of early modernism of last century that is what "real" art is! How ironic...
The scary part is when the attitudes towards traditional values in art start expanding further to the right: traditional family values: why can't we go back to the 'good old days': Zig Heil!!!!! I'm not joking though. Look at Hitlers policy towards the contemporary art of his time...there are many correlations with some right wing NAS attitudes (the vocal minority) and these streams of thought. Scary!
Let me say that most of the teachers/staff are not so narrow minded about art, its mainly the yet to educated undergraduates that are so vocal. A good example was the WASP (white anglo saxon protestestant ) north shore woman who was interviewed on ABC Radio National's social history program ‘Hindsight’ documentary on Darlinghurst Gaol and the National Art School called ‘Penned in Sandstone’...

Ollis: " An art school is only as good as its teachers" ( about the National Art School NAS )

This often repeated quote from the head of NAS: hasn't he got it the wrong way around? A famous artist who was a former NAS student said " A school is only as good as its students": you would think that this is what the head of an educational institution would believe. This sycophantic attitude says a lot about the managements beliefs about students as second class and second rate in the school. It also says a lot about what the management and staff are really fighting for: to protect their little island of privilege. Management at NAS needs to be replaced to stop nepatism and possible misappropriation of taxpayer funds: anyone seen the staff and management-only compound within the school?

Students voice is actively stifled by NAS management

Management at the National Art School actively discourages any form of proactive student organisation. NAS management does this to preserve the status-quo, being an art school primarily run to support practicing artists who are their staff. This situation is predictable given the proffession relationships involved, the artists/staff being the peers of management. Students needs and concerns are quashed in an number of practical ways. One being the active discouragement of any student union or organisation. This results in practically no student life at the school. This leads anti social,competetive and even aggressive behavior between students because they are not encouraged to socialise by management's complete inaction of addressing these needs of students. A students voice is also stifled by management by the exclusion of any form of funded school magazine by management policy. Unlike other art schools whose high quality colour school magazines provide a forum to promote student work and are also offer a way of communicating issues,events and prizes to students, the NAS management does not see students needs or even their artwork as important enough to promote or address. Compared to the work made by the practicing artists it employs, students' work is seen as unimportant. This plays out in ways like the completely unpromoted graduation shows that management refuses to fund any publicity for. The artistic intentions of students work is completely ignored as unimportant by the school.
Another way that student needs are relegated to the bottom of managements concerns is that their in absolutely no procedure for communicating with students. New, changed or cancelled lectures are not notified, and events at the school do not get notified to students and so on. Management has not in any way addressed the need to communicate with the student body by any means whatsoever, being an organised noticeboard, hand out or communication in any way . This is because the needs of students, even their educational needs, are not seen as a priority by management, unlike the needs of the staff/artists who have a new million dollar staff only area and many funded private functions and parties throughout the year.

The needs of students will not be addressed under current management, who in fact actively discourage student participation at the school. Fonas does not act in any way in the interests of students but as another arm of present management.

Employment needs to be opened up at NAS so students get a better education

Artistically conservative teachers do have a valid contribution to make for their strictly formalist teaching...but these teachers should be relegated to only teaching first year students to give them a good grounding in these values. Employment needs to be opened up so that some artists not working in the Modernist paradigm can be employed to add to students' education in final years enabling the student to make his/her own judgements about what art is and isn't. Currently there is a large contingent of NAS staff who refuse to accept art outside of this paradigm that they themselves work within: This limits the contribution they can make to students education as they use their positions to instill their beliefs in students rather than encouraging an open and free exploration of ideas that an art school should encourage.
Making ineffectual teachers entrenched in positions redundant is the only way I can see to reinvigorate the teaching staff. This won't happen under present management...

NAS- what the Atelier system really means for students...

The so called Atelier teaching method, where the school is run by practicing artists has its benefits, like a core of fantastic artists who are also fantastic teachers, but also leads to student's needs being relegated to the bottom of the schools priorities.
The downfalls to this method is that department heads employ people not for their educative abilities but there profile in the commercial art world. This means many bad teachers, that have bad attendance and narrow minded views about art, are entrenched in positions. The so called hands on teaching is actually not true, as these teachers are not often in class or able to offer open minded advice. As far as hands on teaching goes, many teachers are not willing or able to give practical advice, which is antithetical to the school's mission. I can relate many particular ( anonymous) cases of this. This situation will not change under current management because its priority is looking after the practicing artists who are their colleagues, not the interests of students who are treated like second class citizens at the school.
Let me reiterate:the purpose of this blog is to improve NAS, a school worth preserving,, for students.

National Art School - The mismanaged Institution that at least is preserving drawing and art history in fine art training.

Now that NAS has been saved I thinks its time to be critical of the mind set entrenched at the National Art School. I AM AN ARDENT SUPPORTER OF the National Art School AND ITS CONTINUED EXISTENCE: The retention of the school's focus on the core subjects of drawing and art history is what is worth fighting to preserve....I just think the school needs a major paradigm shift that would also improve these departments. The five major workshops all need better management but this won't happen when there isn't strong management at NAS enforcing educational standards, as these are seen as unimportant by the school's management. Prerequisites that should keep the standards of a university degree high are dismissed even by the integral departments of drawing and art history. The drawing department grades students by a subjective judgement of the work they display for their assessment "show". Standards that are ignored at assessment are: Attendance, which is the benefit of the high contact hours that NAS education offers, is totally ignored at assessment. I have witnessed cases where students have had up to 3 months absent, put up work they'd done in previous courses, and still been awarded good marks. This is true in the other departments too. This is due to ineffectual management of educational standards, and is why management at NAS needs to be replaced with university educators, not practicing artists. The department of art history is also lacking university standards. Essays are not cross marked by other staff and there is some really lapse educational standards with the submission of artworks not essays being accepted for subjective marking. Don't get me wrong, the teachers and artists who work in these two most important core departments are absolutely indispensable and are fantastic at their jobs and have so much to offer. This cannot be said for a percentage of the staff in the other departments. Its just as I said previously that the school needs to more strongly managed by educators, so educational standards can be actively enforced.