Posted Wednesday 12 February 2020
The newly refurbished Mill Street Building at Knights Park campus was the centre of a community event to mark the official opening following a two year refurbishment project.
More than 300 local residents, staff and students explored Kingston School of Art's state of the art workshops and studios and were invited to take part in specially curated activities throughout the day.
Guests sampled a host of art and design techniques designed to showcase workshop and studio spaces, while touring the building. Technicians and support staff were kept busy as a stream of visitors got access to print workshops, moving image studios and the hackspace. In the Big Build, close to the new Mill Street entrance, fine art students produced work based on the idea of a fifth plinth, inspired by the vacant fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Younger artists were accommodated with creative workshops taking place in on the ground floor of the campus in the Staff Space area, with many children taking home specially created pieces to remember their experience.
Undergraduates raised money for upcoming shows with graphic design students selling a range of unique designs, while illustration animation students offered portraits sculpted from plasticine. Student musicians provided a beautiful accompaniment to the proceedings, setting up a stage in the Foodstore.
Guests were invited to the atrium space on the fourth floor to hear speeches from the University's Vice-Chancellor, Interim Dean of Kingston School of Art, the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, Margaret Thompson, and Council Leader Liz Green.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Steven Spier took the opportunity to encourage the assembled audience to tour the building and embrace the creative opportunities available in the workshops and studios. "Kingston School of Art is recognised as one of the best art and design schools for teaching and research in Europe and across the world," he said. "The development here at Knights Park forms a key part of our wider estate vision, alongside the new Town House at Penrhyn Road, which will deliver not just state-of-the-art facilities for our students but deepen our relationship with the community."
Interim Dean Mandy Ure thanked staff across the faculty and University who had dedicated time to make the day such a success. "Weeks of intricate planning culminated in a joyous celebration of creativity amid the newly refurbished workshops and studios," she said. Ms Ure also launched a new suite of short courses, developed by Head of Department of Foundation Rebecca Davies and her team, which generated a lot of interest from the local community.
"We are a busy and supportive community that love our campus. We would like to thank the community for their patience while the work has been ongoing," Ms Ure said. "We wanted to improve the student experience and encourage interdisciplinary working - replicating the professional world our students will enter. We're very proud that the building has been nominated for a BREEAM award and that we have reduced CO2 emissions by 52 per cent."
Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames Council Leader, Councillor Liz Green, was keen to get involved with some of the activities on offer, noting the 3D printing in the hackspace a particular highlight. She recalled that a few years ago she had spoken of a special relationship between the University and Kingston upon Thames being fostered as town with gown, rather than town and gown. "Every time I visit the University I find out more about what it is doing," she said. "It feels like the University is dedicated to the whole of Kingston - we need to work together and the University is a key partner."
A performance from music and dance students provided a fitting way to conclude the ceremony with a duo of piano and violin accompanied by two dance students, creating both a dramatic and intimate routine. The crowd then dispersed around the building, eager to sample as much as they could with workshops and studios full of invigorated imaginations and newly created creative dreams.