BY LUCAS BAIRD
The local and arts community have rallied to condemn a decision by NSW’s top universities to combine their art schools next year.
The University of Sydney will dissolve its Sydney College of the Arts campus at Callan Park and will give students the option of either continuing with their current degree at UNSW’s Paddington campus or transfer to a course offered in UNSW’s Art and Design faculty.
The two universities are also in discussion with the National Arts School in Darlinghurst to include it in the merger. The Department of Education NSW has recently forfeited control of this facility to Property NSW.
State MP for Balmain, Jamie Parker lamented that the three different approaches by the schools would become homogenised and diluted.
He said that the the Sydney College of the Arts focused on a studio based practice with an emphasis on theoretical and academic work, which does not gel with UNSW’s and the National Arts School’s traditional lecture hall approach.
The founder and leader of the Arts Party, PJ Collins, supported Mr Parker and said he “completely disagreed” with the decision to merge the schools.
“The arts students of NSW should have the option of three quite distinct approaches to the study of fine arts… It is a very worrying development,” Mr Collins told City Hub.
Mr Collins said that a merger would result in less equipment and staff, calling the plan “cruel” to students who would no longer be getting the education they signed up for.
Mr Collins also believes that these cutbacks will result in less opportunities for the next generation of artists. Ultimately reducing the variety of art created in the future.
“We don’t want to see less access to arts, that is the opposite of what we want.”
Despite these concerns, a UNSW spokesperson told City Hub that they believe the combination of these schools will build on the strengths of both institutions.
However, Mr Parker’s concern was not only with education. He believes that the state government will opt to sell off the newly available land in Callan Park and that an independent trust must be established to protect the park.
“We have learnt from both Liberal and Labor governments that as soon as you leave a piece of public land available, governments are set to try and sell it,” Mr Parker said.
“Without a properly funded, independent trust temptation from Government would be to sell the land and we need the land of Callan Park – not just for the people of the Inner West – for all the people of Sydney.”
Friends of Callan Park President, Hall Greenland, said that a Callan Park Trust would be “ideal” and that any privatisation or leasing of Callan Park would be a “tragedy”.
But he said that if there was any move to do this there would be a “mighty” resistance from the community.
“This is an active, well informed, determined community and any attempt to ruin Callan Park would be met with fierce resistance,” he told City Hub.
The University of Sydney did not respond to City Hub’s request for comment.