The origins of the University of Ulster's School of Art and Design date from the Belfast School of Design founded in 1849. Since then the vast majority of Irish artists of distinction have been associated with the School in its various manifestations as students and / or teachers.
Formal work on building the Permanent Collection started in 1992 when the University took a strategic decision to fund the purchase of a wide range of exemplary pieces that 'demonstrate the blend of those with established reputations and those who are expected to achieve national and international recognition in years to come'. All artists in the Collection are / have been graduates or members of staff of the University. The works can be seen in the public areas of the University's four campuses in Belfast, Coleraine, Jordanstown and Magee College, Londonderry. By cascading the art work across all campuses allows students and colleagues in other disciplines to engage with the rich vein of creativity that emanates from the visual arts.
Part of the rationale for establishing the Collection was as a reference point for practicing artists who teach or have taught at the University in some capacity. Their work is introduced to the students through contextual studies in the Fine and Applied Arts courses. The Collection is not only about celebrating local talent but encompasses to work of visiting artists from many countries who have contributed to the teaching programmes over the years, such as Anne Meredith Barry from Newfoundland or Michiko Okuyama from Japan. Through our international teaching and exchange programme strong links have been built with China especially in the area of printmaking where David Barker has established a significant presence. The Collection reflects this through the inclusion of fine prints by leading Chinese printmakers.
Many of our present lecturing staff represented in the collection have already established an international reputation. Willie Doherty, David Crone and Alastair MacLennan for instance have a long history of exhibiting at prestigious venues worldwide and have many accolades to their credit. Their work shown alongside the work of recent graduates provides an excellent opportunity for existing students to engage in debate about current art practice directly with the artists involved.
The Head of School, Professor Brian McClelland has a clear School policy that expects all teaching staff to 'practice what they teach'. This may take many forms but none more important than that of research and other public output where fine arts played a significant part in Art and Design at the University of Ulster gaining a '5' rating in the recent Research Assessment Exercise.
Head of the School of Art and Design
University of Ulster
Professor Brian McClelland