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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Government College of Arts and Crafts Chennai

The flooded central courtyard

Better known as the Madras School of Art, it is the oldest art institution in India, founded in 1850 by a British surgeon. It was taken over by the government in 1852 and has changed names several times. Bachelor of the Arts degrees are run in Fine Art, Visual Communication and Textile Design amongst others.
The university has played a very important role in the history of  Indian art with many celebrated artists being products of it.
Praveen studied himself there and has very fond memories of his time there, he took us back to meet some of his lecturers, show us around the campus and meet some students.
The campus had not escaped the floods although the main buildings were fine inside. It is a beautiful collection of old buildings, very British Colonial in appearance with a central courtyard full of established trees and an ecletic assortment of art pieces. For those of you who know UCF it reminded us very much of the Woodlane campus. But the state of repair of the buildings was quite shocking, having visited Pearl Accademy in Delhi it became very clear the difference in funding between a government run and private run institution. 
Once again the Textile Design degree is a four year course with year 0 being an all round foundation year. The facilities are fairly basic and quite old but the course structure seems very similar in theory, with students specialising in weave, print or embroidery. It is more craft based than our experience as handicrafts play a very important role in Indian culture and the majority of students will work for the local market. There is an even gender split on the Textile course and each year has around 30 students.

We met with some year 2 students who showed us work relating to recent interiors projects they had undertaken. We were told that families do not generally think highly of their children attending an arts university and it is really only an option if they do not have the grades to enroll on a more academic programme such as medicine. 

The students were very keen to ask about our course and know how it varied from theirs, something that we actually found quite difficult to explain as on paper they sound very similar although the output and direction of work is very different. One aspect which notably varied from many Western design teachings is the lack of trend and market direction. The course focused on teaching skills and techniques rather than market led design and students are expected to then learn this on the job.

It was a great eye opener to see how the university varied from both ours in the UK and from the one in Delhi. There was a real atmosphere about the place and it clearly has a strong history and alumni, something the students are very proud of and I am very glad we able to see it.

Life drawing classes

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