Posted Monday 10 August 2020
A respected arts educator and practitioner with a wealth of senior leadership experience has been appointed Dean of Kingston School of Art.
Mandy Ure, who has served as interim Dean for the past year, takes up the permanent post with immediate effect. She originally joined the staff at Kingston University in November 2015, becoming Head of Department for Fine Art the following year. She subsequently served as acting Head of the School of Art and Architecture before assuming the top job at Kingston School of Art last summer.
Since taking the helm, Ms Ure has been pivotal in ensuring Kingston School of Art has been able to mark a number of milestones. She has presided over the final stages of a £multi-million redevelopment of workshops and studio spaces at Knights Park campus, recently shortlisted for a RIBA London regional award. Other highlights have included seeing dance students settle in to new performance studios in the University's flagship Town House building at the Penrhyn Road campus, also vying for top honours from RIBA. The growing profile of the University's Dorich House Museum and Stanley Picker Gallery as rich cultural resources had also been extremely encouraging, she said.
A fervent champion of interdisciplinary collaboration, she has drawn considerable satisfaction from getting a deeper insight into the expertise of colleagues specialising in different subject areas and fostering increased amounts of joint working. In the international arena, developing opportunities for online knowledge sharing and future student exchanges with the Indian Institute of Art and Design had been particularly rewarding, she said. Closer to home, Ms Ure has been working with alumni to ensure Kingston School of Art offers a more inclusive curriculum and discussing ways to improve diversity in the workplace with key industry contacts.
The way the Kingston School of Art and wider University community had rallied to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic had been another stand out feature of the past year, she said. "Nobody could have foreseen the challenges 2020 would bring for higher education right across the globe," she said. "New methods of studying and working online had to be adopted and adapted to with minimal warning, but the determination of staff and students to do their very best, despite the enormity of the unexpected situation in which we have all found ourselves, has been admirable.
"At the same time, seeing fashion staff making scrubs and face coverings for the NHS and local care homes, technicians producing visors, students and staff volunteering to deliver food across the wider community and many colleagues contributing to the student hardship fund has been truly heartening."
Looking forward, the creative industries would be integral to fuelling the recovery of the national economy, she said. "Our agile thinking and problem-solving skills mean we can work independently and as part of teams to find design solutions, create powerful narratives through different types of story-telling and provide a critical focus on issues impacting society. We can play with materials, words and sounds to look at the world a different way – exactly the type of perspective that will be needed emerging out of lockdown and to support the nation's health and wellbeing," she said.
With extensive experience both as a practitioner and academic, Ms Ure is well placed to comment. Educated at Goldsmiths College, University of London and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, she is also an accomplished artist in her own right. In 2018, she presented a solo exhibition at Matt's Gallery in London and her works were also showcased at Glasgow International Festival and GiG in Munich.
Prior to her arrival at Kingston, she headed the School of Art and Design at the University of the West of England in Bristol. In this role, she led an expansive portfolio of courses across art and design disciplines and oversaw the redesign of the original campus along with the development of a third city campus. She was also responsible for partner relations with the city's cultural institutions.
As she and her team prepare to welcome new students to Kingston School of Art in the autumn, she has plenty of advice for the aspiring artists, designers, performers and other creatives of the future. "Stick with it, practise your skills, don't be afraid to challenge what you are learning and support one another throughout your studies," she urges. "Have confidence in your abilities and know that creativity is fostered through serious play, scrutinising received ideas and curiosity about the world." By the time they complete their degrees, she hopes they will emerge as socially responsible, considerate and critical thinkers who understand the value of their abilities and can communicate that with confidence and passion to others.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Steven Spier said Ms Ure's expertise as an academic leader and creative practitioner, coupled with her clear vision for the future of art and design education, would prove invaluable attributes in her new role. "Mandy's foresight, tenacity and commitment to enhancing the staff and student experience will, without doubt, continue to propel Kingston School of Art from strength to strength," he added. "Her particular blend of practice, academic and leadership experience brings a focus and energy to Kingston School of Art that will enable it to further boost its influence across the sector and wider higher education landscape."