Things are looking grim for the History of Art Department and its newly proposed relocation, and it’s not just because of the lack of Kirsty and Phil, stars of Channel 4’s ‘Location, Location, Location.’
Is the Art History Department’s unique location- including Café L, the Lakeside Arts Centre and the Djanogly Art Gallery- set to become just that? History? Not many students venture down to this small department just past the South Entrance Gatehouse and opposite the Lakeside Pavilion with its comfy blue sofas, impressive Visual Resource Centre and intimate lecture theatre. It may well be the case that none will have the chance to experience it soon, according to plans for a new Humanities building which will allegedly house departments such as Archaeology, Theology, Classics, Philosophy and now Art History. Originally Art History was not intended to be moved from its current position beside Music, which has left many a student asking: why the sudden change?
Victoria Auckland, a third year art history student has organised an online petition (with currently over 250 signatures) as well as a Facebook group to rally support against the relocation from a Department which is “lovely, comfy and collegiate” according to a comment on the group. With over 30 posts expressing outrage at the plans, both current and former students alike have described the move as a “travesty” and “sad news”.
Perhaps the most distressing aspect for students is that the building was purpose built for the department. Couple this with alleged non-consultation of both academic staff and students and questions arise about the benefit of moving from such a high quality learning space.
Michael De Vletter, the newly elected Faculty of Arts Coordinator for 2010/2011, expressed concern at this proposal. “From what I understand the vast majority of the staff in the department and history of art students are against the move”, he said, “The Arts Space Review in July reported that, according to their model, the department has ‘more than sufficient space’, for its existing requirements.” He goes on to add, “The History of Art building has also set itself apart from the rest of the humanities in offering so many services and facilities to aide the students in their learning. I really do hope that the students and staff will continue to voice their views and make the university consider the impact on atmosphere, environment, and student satisfaction in relocating the department.”
One question that has been raised is what the Art History building will be used for once it has moved; will Café L and the Djanogly Gallery still be open? More importantly, perhaps, what will the move do to the department’s reputation? A local curator who has commented on the site, having worked closely with the department and staff, explains the benefits of the current department to Impact: “The department’s location is key to its success and provides the best possible example of a good advert for the University to those outside of it.”
One of the comments from the Facebook group argued further: “I am astonished that they are even considering it when the students, staff and alumni are so against it.”
With the University’s recent slide of seven places in the Guardian’s latest university league table (to 26th) – behind Leicester and Southampton – the question must be asked whether this further jeopardises the University’s chances of attracting Art History Students. Many comments on the Facebook group suggest that the Department’s location and assets were a big part in many students decision in choosing The University of Nottingham. By moving one of the departments from a top quality building and reducing its visible commitment to teaching (that is rumoured to come only second to the Courtauld Institute) surely the University isn’t doing itself any favours?