West Dean College of Arts & Conservation celebrates 50 years of championing arts, craft & conservation

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has just launched 50 special one-day short courses to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. Inspired by the original 1970s list of subject areas, the variety of courses includes endangered heritage crafts, as well as new or sustainable craft skills, offering students the opportunity to learn a skill to last a lifetime.

The College near Chichester, West Sussex, was founded by Edward James, poet, patron of the arts and visionary of the 20th century. James donated his family home and estate to fulfil his desire to nurture music, traditional crafts, and the fine arts.

In 1939 James wrote of his vision to writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley “My suggestion would be to make this community a group of people working to preserve and teach certain crafts.” This legacy lives on today through the College’s extensive programme of short courses and accredited higher education degrees and diplomas in Fine Art, Craft and Conservation.

At least 25 of the recently-launched courses were courses featured in the original documents and course programmes envisioned by Edward James over 50 years ago, and were circulated ahead of the College’s opening on October 23, 1971. These include millinery, wirework, carving in wood and stone, and silversmithing.

Other courses are craft-based subjects that the College has supported over the past 50 years, while the final part of the series uses materials and approaches which have developed since 1971, as new materials and processes became available, these include plasticsmithing and using precious metal clay.

Online & onsite exhibition
In addition to the short courses, following an Open Call during the summer, there's also an online and onsite exhibition showcasing over 140 images, which reflect individual learning experiences at West Dean College – whether as a current or former student, tutor or staff member. These illustrate beautiful objects or artworks that were made at the College on short course or at an event, or while doing a degree or diploma and continue to be practised as a pastime or even a livelihood. The 140 varied and personal responses are now available to see online or displayed in the kiwi/passionflower glasshouses in West Dean Gardens. Access to the onsite exhibition is by visiting the Gardens and purchasing tickets online in advance.

Further 50th anniversary celebrations include the launch of new online access to the West Dean College Collection and Archive, which will be announced soon, offering the chance to view never seen before correspondence, first editions and sketches by many notable 20th century artists connected with Edward James. As well as a special open house and summer show event.

These new courses will run until September 2022, and a full list can be found on the website: www.westdean.ac.uk.

West Dean College - The Edward James Foundation
Estate Office, West Dean
Nr Chichester, West Sussex
PO18 0QZ
01243 818 300