Arts students harness social media to fight cuts

Arts students at the University of the Arts London protest cuts at
 Cooper Union University in New York. Photograph: Ben Westley Clark

Students around the world are protesting in unconventional ways, using social media to promote their cause, and setting an example for new student protests.

Earlier this year student activists in an art school in Canada destroyed their own work to protest against the closure of their studios. Students at the Capilano University wrecked their sculptures as a sign of what they thought cuts would do to their futures. Their protests were organised and publicised on their Facebook page.

Jennifer O'Keefe, a sculpture student at Capilano who was part of the protest, says: "The cutbacks show a difference in attitude towards the arts, as if it was merely an inconsequential activity rather than an empowering vital force."

Despite their best efforts, Capilano activists failed to stop management closing their courses, but O'Keefe and others have found practical solutions, such as creating an arts facility for the community to use.

Students at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, an art and engineering university in New York, fought hard against the introduction of tuition fees. Earlier this year activists occupied the university president's office and held talks and made artwork, livestreaming the protest so that students around the world could watch.

Students at Cooper Union also used graffiti and a magazine, which they called a "disorientation guide", to let new students know about politics at the university.

Lawrence Lek, an artist and Cooper Union graduate, organised an exhibition in London to support the New York students in their campaign for free education.

The University of the Arts London's students union held their own protest in support of students suffering cuts in Canada and America, after hearing about their actions via social media.

As well as protesting against the cuts, arts students and lecturers are coming up with alternatives. The Open School East launches in London this month; it's a new art school set up by artists and curators who believe in free art education.

- theguardian.com


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