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Radical way of paying for unaffordable arts education launches with Open School East

PUBLISHED: 19:11 04 October 2013 | UPDATED: 19:13 04 October 2013

Associates at Open School East

Associates at Open School East

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An old library building is set to become a creative community hub after being transformed into a free-to-attend arts school whose teachers include the likes of last year’s Turner Prize winner Elizabeth Price.

In return for tuition and studio space in the Rose Lipman building, the 13 emerging artists at Open School East will share their knowledge and skills with the community for a day a month.

With skills ranging from film making, community organising, dancing and pottery, the group will turn the building in De Beauvoir Road - which housed the Hackney Archives since the mid 70s until a couple of years ago when it moved to the Dalston CLR James library - into a site for social and intellectual and practical exchanges.

Pupils whose ages range from 21 to 45 years old have already planned film screenings, pottery workshops, a choir and a gardening project.

Co-founder Sam Thorne told the Gazette at its launch yesterday: “The crux of the whole project if that in lieu of paying tuition fees which are up to £20,000 in the UK for international students, they take a role in reopening this former public building.

“What’s radical is that it’s free, and that people are paying in different ways.

“It feels really remarkable that it’s happened so quickly, a year ago we were just talking about it.”

Its high profile faculty of 20 tutors of international curators, novelists, film makers, and theorists, which includes novelist Brian Dylan and local writer Ken Warpole, were all keen to get on board.

The traditional top-down approach to education has been discarded, with the students – whose academic qualifications range from none to MA level – helping to set their own curriculum.

The group is keen to work with local organisations and charities, like the Hackney Silver Surfers, which provides computer skills to the over 50s.

“The artists aren’t working towards a degree show in a traditional way, they are working on developing a project, it may well have an exhibition component next summer but it might be a collaboration with a local charity,” said Mr Thorne.

“A lot of it is very open ended, we don’t entirely know what the associates will be coming out with, but they are going to be projects with a significant afterlife that will run much longer than the course of this academic year.”

Open School East was made possible thanks to a £100,000 grant from the Barbican and Create London, and Hackney Council is subsidising the building’s rent.

Sean Gregory, director of creative learning at the Barbican said the project gives the students the time, teaching and support they need to develop their work, while also attracting new audiences to the arts through the school’s public events programme.

“This is an exciting new model that will have a real impact in how organisations approach arts education and community engagement in the future,” he added.

Local groups are invited to make use of the communal space and there will be a community open day on October 20.

For more information see www.openschooleast.org.

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