ALTERNATIVE (ART) SCHOOLS & NETWORKS
Overview of alternative art schools, free schools, projects, support networks and vanguards of the alternative education movement. Originally compiled as part of a collaborative research project by ART&CRITIQUE, with contributions from Laura Hudson, Katie Tysoe and Johanna Kwiat. This is a ongoing research project and the page will be updated regularly. Please get in touch if you are associated with a school, project or network that is not on this list, or if you want to amend or expand the entry.
2005 Los Angeles
An online PDF repository and discussion forum. Originally an acronym of Artists, Architects, and Activists Reading Group created by the artist Sean Dockray as a conversation platform to develop critical discourse outside of institutional settings, at different times it performs as a school, or a reading group, or a journal. AAAAARG serves as a library for The Public School, a framework supporting autodidact activities. AAAAARG grew into a community of researchers and enthusiasts from contemporary art, critical theory, philosophy and related fields who maintain, catalog, annotate and run discussions relevant to their research interests. See also the aaaaarg library on Are.na.
Alternative Art College
The Alternative Art College was set up by Paul Stewart to question UK higher education. It is a protest against fees and employability. Nomadic and sporadic, the school aims to experiment with education and create spaces of collaboration and negotiation. It has existed as a three-month school, one day events and as Skype and Slack pages. It is a peer network that forms when necessary, otherwise it lays dormant as a resource and archive. The school regards contemporary art as an efficient means of resistance, interruption and deconstruction of global capitalism.
Alternative Art School Fair
Organised by Pioneer Works, a non-profit cultural centre dedicated to experimentation, education and production across disciplines, through a broad range of educational programs, performances, residencies and exhibitions.
Alternative ‘Master of Fine Art’ course established by artists for artists as a free alternative to studying a university-based MA in London. AltMFA incorporates the most desirable elements of an MFA course: space to work, collaborators to argue with, and a social sphere to move within. “We squeeze into any space and adapt it to our ends.” Unlike a conventional MFA, AltMFA is a common space in which there are no fees and time and facilities are all offered in kind. Meet weekly Monday nights 6.30pm -9.30pm. Programme takes place in a range of private and public venues. AltMFA is self-selecting; the only criteria for membership is attendance and the contribution of time and energy.
A short-lived experiment in self-organised education and communal living at 49 Rivington Street in Shoreditch. It was opened in February 1968 by David Cooper and Alan Krebs with syllabus covering radical politics, existential psychiatry and the artistic avant-garde.
2015 London / UK
Antiuniversity Now is a collaborative experiment to challenge institutionalised education, access to learning and the mechanism of knowledge creation and distribution. Antiuniversity Now was set up to reignite the 1968 Antiuniversity of London with the intention to challenge academic and class hierarchy and the exclusivity of the £9K-a-year-degree by inviting people to organise and share learning events in public spaces all over the country. Antiuniversity Now events are free, accessible and inclusive and are delivered using non-hierarchical, participatory and democratic pedagogy. The Antiuniversity is firmly rooted in a collective desire to create and sustain safe autonomous spaces for radical learning that follow, nurture and enact anarchist, feminist, anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-homophobic, de-colonial and anti-capitalist values through conversation and direct action.
A peer-led alternative art education network dedicated to critical engagement with art practice, theory and research. ART&CRITIQUE employed collaborative, co-operative and collective models of pedagogy and organisation and fostered alternative models of art education in a series of public events and research projects.
Art/ Work Association (A/WA)
An association of artists and creative workers and a self-generated programme of talks, screenings, seminars, reading groups, workshops and critical feedback sessions, conceived as a forum for peer exchange. A/WA offers a support network for associates and enables self-organised learning, professional development and critical dialogue. Membership is free and open to all. Events and sessions are run with a semi-public format to foster conversations that may not be possible within a wider public context, or at larger-scale cultural institutions and galleries. A/WA welcomes proposals and ideas for new events from all associate members – as well as offering time, resources and support to develop and realise sessions from a voluntary steering committee. A/WA is run in partnership with Auto Italia South East.
Autonomous School Zurich
A grassroots project run by locals and immigrants offering diverse educational and cultural activities for everyone including undocumented refugees, the socially excluded and all other interested people. This school is a project to fight against racism and injustice. It is also a meeting point, where people of different origins get to know each other. “Autonomous” is being independent and also self organized. The school moves forward with the collective work and genuine understanding from the students and teachers. All teachers are students too. All students are teachers also. Everybody plays a very important role in the school. There is no boss in ASZ. Everybody works freely and voluntarily. This school is not a government project. It gets no help and financial assistance from the government. Sometimes it gets help, financial assistance and class materials from kind, good spirited individuals and organizations. There is a plenary assembly every 2 to 4 weeks. There are various working groups carrying out different tasks in the school. Personal ideas can be realized in ASZ. Own ideas are also welcome to move the school forward.
2014 New York
BFAMFAPhD makes art and creates reports and pedagogical tools to advocate for cultural equity in the United States. BFAMFAPhD is a collective of artists, designers, technologists, organisers and educators who work in the intersection of art, technology and political economy. They bring people together to analyse and reimagine power relationships in the arts. Of Supply Chains is a free resource for educators that investigates the life-cycle of projects: how materials are sourced, how labor is organized, how the artwork is encountered etc. Concerned about the impact of debt, rent, and precarity on the lives of creative people, BFAMFAPhD asks: What is a work of art in the age of $120,000 art degrees? BFAMFAPhD core members are Susan Jahoda, Emilio Martinez Poppe, Agnes Szanyi, Vicky Virgin, and Caroline Woolard. They invite contributions.
Black Mountain College
1933-1957 North Carolina
Bruce High Quality Foundation University (BHQFU)
2009-2017 New York
BHQFU was New York’s freest art school, a learning experiment where artists worked together to manifest creative, productive, resistant, useless, and demanding interactions between art and the world. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, BHQFU offered completely tuition-free courses on a variety of subjects during fall and spring semesters, hosted public programs and exhibitions year-round, and operated cost-free artist studio residency programs.
Cátedra Arte de Conducta
Center for Art Analysis
Lia Perjovschi is the founder and coordinator of CAA/CAA—the Contemporary Art Archive/Center for Art Analysis, an informal institution functioning under different names since 1985. Constituted as a tool for communication and education for the reproduction and recycling of knowledge, inspired by the need to fill up the gap in knowledge caused by Romania’s isolation during the socialist era. Lia Perjovschi also founded the Knowledge Museum, an interdisciplinary and educational project based on research initiated in 1999.
Conditions is a one-year studio programme for 12 artists each year. It will give 24/7 access to studio space and structured critical conversations to develop each artist’s work, as well as encouraging collaboration and collective work on exhibitions and events. Conditions will offer participating artists a programme of talks, teaching and workshops from a wide range of Associates comprising artists, writers, musicians, performers, curators and educators. It is aimed at addressing the increasing cost of both studio space and education for artists in London, by providing an alternative model. Conditions will examine art education and art production and think toward new conditions. The programme is focused around a number of loose themes. The cost is £230 per month for 12 months = £2760 per person for the year. Conditions is co-founded by artist and educator Matthew Noel-Tod and artist David Panos. It is led by Matthew Noel-Tod, whose work in art education includes previously running the Moving Image degree at University of Brighton.
2005-2014 New York / International
An experiment in collective autodidacticism that began in 2005 as a series of seminars with Brian Holmes and the 16 Beaver Group in New York, inquiring into geopolitical change and its local consequences.
Copenhagen Free University (CFU)
A self-organised institution for research and knowledge sharing established in 2001 by artists Jacob Jakobsen and Henriette Heise in their Copenhagen apartment. The CFU was a protest against artists’ self-definition as accomplices to power in the prevailing conditions of neo-liberalism, a reaction against the commodification of knowledge and the corporate appropriation of education. The Copenhagen Free University made it clear that universities do not necessarily have to reflect the hegemonic structures of society; universities could be organised and based in and around the everyday knowledge and material struggles structuring people’s lives… Knowledge for us is always situated and interwoven with desire. The institution was dedicated to the production of critical consciousness and poetic language until 2007 when it ceased its activities.
Dark Matter University
An anti-racist design justice school seeking the radical transformation of education and practice toward a just future. Existing systems have not been able to transform away from centering and advancing whiteness, through their reliance on an implied dominant and racialized subject and audience. The impacts of that centering can be felt in the inequities that global extraction, racial capitalism and colonialism have created. Dark Matter University works inside and outside of existing systems to challenge, inform and reshape the world toward a better future. It is a democratic network that works to create: New forms of knowledge and knowledge production through radical anti-racist forms of communal knowledge and spatial practice that are grounded in lived experience. New forms of institutions along a networked resource distribution model between institutions. New forms of collectivity and practice. New forms of community and culture. New forms of design that open the possibilities and methodologies for designing the built environment. They aim to co-create new formal and spatial imaginaries that serve broader constituencies and consider multiple subjectivities.
Design as Protest
A coalition of designers mobilizing strategy to dismantle the privilege and powers structures that use architecture and design as tools of oppression. Co-organized by BIPOC designers who hold their profession accountable in reversing the violence and injustice that architecture, design and urban planning practices have inflicted upon Black people and communities. Design as Protest champions the radical vision of racial, social and cultural reparation through the process and outcomes of design.
DIY Art School
DIY Art School Manchester is “a survival tactic” by Manchester Metropolitan University graduates. The school provides a support network for recent graduates. A platform for recent graduates and emerging artists to critique and develop their work. Its framework is in a constant state of flux depending on what graduates need and want from the network.
2007 London / UK
An informal, supportive peer critique network for artists in London, UK and beyond. Set up by Elizabeth Murton after graduating from Goldsmiths to continue the conversations, atmosphere and support to foster an informal, supportive peer critique network for artists in London, UK and beyond. Chaired to a style and philosophy which is informal and stimulating. Keeping the groups small, constructive conversation is encouraged. Emphasis is placed on peer feedback in response to the artist’s own questions and concerns. The format can be arranged to suit location, artists and budget. Open to all artists, at any stage of their career.
Essential School Of Painting
The Essential School of Painting is based in Bethnal Green and specialises in painting and drawing classes taught by leading contemporary artists.
Evening Class is a self-organised design education experiment, consisting of 20 participants from various cultural and educational backgrounds. It is a flexible environment where participants can cultivate common interests, develop their research and collectively shape the class’s agenda. Evening Class takes place twice per week. Thursday evening talks and readings are free and open to all to attend. Evening Class is a self-supporting group. The expenses are decided collectively and fluctuate in accordance with the group’s needs. At the moment they amount to £30 a month each. If our intention was to challenge the selection processes of conventional education structures, then we should begin with the (non-)admissions procedure. Unfortunately it is not possible to continue this method indefinitely, so we are not currently accepting new members. We are trying to think of other ways to make our programme available to more people.
Feminist Autonomous Centre for Research (FAC Research)
is a space for learning, reflection, collaboration, support, exchange, knowledge production, political interventions, and trouble-making. Working across and against nation-state and continental borders, disciplinary boundaries, and institutional barriers, FAC returns to the feminist roots of autonomous knowledge production, challenging what counts as legitimate knowledge and who is granted the right to produce and receive it. Our feminisms are queer, trans, intersectional, antiracist, anti-authoritarian, always in plural, reflexive, and internally contested. Research areas: Intersectionality, Critiques of Power & Coalitional Politics; Mobility, Migrations & Borders; Art as Research, Visual, Performative & Documentary Knowledges; Sexualities & Genders, Queer Trans Feminist Perspectives.
Feral Art School
A co-operative art school of professional artists and educators who encourage experimentation and collaboration. Feral Art School is takes place across the city in a range of venues. They invite students from all walks of life who have a curiosity for engaging with and making art work, regardless of previous experience and skills. Their courses progress from general introductory level to more advanced levels.
Free Black University
The Free Black University is a hub for radical and transformative knowledge production. Universities hold a deep responsibility when it comes to racism, the knowledge that introduced the very ideology of racism into our society was born in British Universities. The fight to decolonise education has been going on for years and it has become ever clearer that more is required than what the current education system can offer. The Free Black University exists to re-distribute knowledge and act as a space of incubation for the creation of transformative knowledge in the Black community. The long-term vision for this work is to deliver free and accessible online education, an online library of radical writing, a journal, a press, a member’s space for emerging Black academics, a podcast, an annual conference and a hub with teaching rooms, book shop, restaurant and healing areas. Subscribe to the mailing list, contribute to the crowdfunder.
Free School of Critical Feminisms
A week-long course that sees 16 students come together in an intimate and supportive community of peers to explore questions of feminist theory outside the imperatives of institutionalised academia. The School does not charge fees, with the aim of removing the economic barriers that often accompany events of this nature – barriers that affect women, queer and trans people of colour in particular. It is supported by the SOAS Centre for Gender Studies, with a contribution of £750. This money goes towards paying for lunches, printing posters, and paying for speakers who are in precarious employment circumstances. However, the Free School is completely autonomous; it is jointly organised by Jana Cattien and Rowan Powell, neither of whom are doing it in any institutional capacity. The organisers of this year’s Free School were participants in last year’s Free School. Likewise, the application panel for this year’s round will be made up of participants from last year’s round and so on, in order to build a network for free feminist education.
Cooperative, community-led organisation that provides and promotes free educational events across the city. They aim to grow an alternative education system that benefits everyone, whoever they are and whatever their financial means. They offer free courses, practical workshops, introductory taster sessions, lectures, talks, film screenings, discussion and debate in a wide variety of subjects. They also offer validated, degree-level courses in philosophy and social sciences. Their aim is to turn public spaces into classrooms, enabling communities to come together to think, develop, learn, question the world around us and explore how it could be different and better.
Free University London
Free degree-level humanities courses, lectures, talks, film screenings discussion and debate in politics, philosophy and social sciences. The tutors are university lecturers who teach subjects they are passionate about. Welcome those who haven’t been and are not currently part of other formal educational institutions. Based at DIY Space for London.
Free University of New York City
2012 New York City
An experiment in radical education and an attempt to create education as it ought to be, building on the historic tradition of movement freedom schools. First conceived as a form of educational strike in the run up to May Day, 2012, the Free University has organized numerous days of free crowd-sourced education in community centers, museums, parks, public spaces, and subway stations in New York City.
Free University of New York (FUNY)
1965-1967 New York
An educational social enterprise initiated by Allen Krebs, Sharon Krebs and James Mellen in July 1965 in a loft overlooking Union Square. FUNY began as a home for professors dismissed from local universities for political reasons. Course topics included: Black Liberation, Revolutionary Art and Ethics, Community Organization, The American Radical Tradition, Cuba and China, and Imperialism and Social Structure. FUNY began as an experimental school for the New Left, built on models such as Black Mountain College, though it became closely aligned with the Maoist Progressive Labor Party. Tuition for the 10-week session was $24 for the first course while welfare recipients could attend for free. In Spring1966 there were 40 faculty members and 250 students on 31 courses. After the first year, many of the initial collaborators left or were forced to leave, and it shut down a few years later after it was renamed the Free School of New York.
Hornsey College of Art
North London art school with an experimental and progressive approach to art and design education. On 28 May 1968 staff and students began a 24-hour protest over student union funds which turned into a six-week occupation. Manifestos published and distributed during the occupation offered a major critique of art education with calls for a review of the art curriculum. The protest sparked widespread debates and spread to other art schools. Hornsey College of Art was integrated to Middlesex Polytechnic in 1973.
A group of seven women artists from Derbyshire to London who offer peer support, mentoring and shared group outings to arts events. They have external tutors to initiate professional development “action learning” as a working tool for their meetings.
Independent Art School
Founded by Pippa Koszerek when she was a student, the school became a curatorial project after she and fellow course mates created The New Hull Art School as a protest against the course structure of fine art degrees. Championing a free and progressive approach to education, they set up talks, crits, performances and presentations.
Islington Mill Art Academy (IMAA)
Islington Mill Art Academy was founded by a group of local art foundation students who believe that a traditional BA does not prepare students for life beyond education. It is a peer-led experiment into alternative modes of art education, tailored to meet the needs of artists striving to develop their creative practice alongside full-time day jobs. Founded in 2007, IMAA emphasises shared responsibility. A forerunner in the alternative art schools movement, it was set up in response to student fees and the debate around the relevance and usefulness of mainstream art education. The Mill’s ethos is based around an openness to try new things. It is a place to experiment and inquire; to translate arts education into something viable and meaningful in the real world. IMAA gives artists an opportunity to take control of their own learning through facilitation, practice and experimentation. Open to anyone who would like to be an artist and who is interested in taking responsibility for, and direction of, the way in which they intend to do this.
The Juggernauts are a group of 14 artists who share the same common feeling of struggle on driving a large beast of a vehicle toward a specific trajectory. The Juggernauts formed a peer mentoring group in London and meet once a month, to discuss work in progress and share positive feedback.
London Free School
London Materialisms Reading Group
Regular meetings to discuss a range of posthuman, new materialist, speculative realist, actor-network and object-oriented understandings that foreground the materiality of life and its governance. Approaches key or interesting readings in an informal and flexible way, with a brief introduction by one of the group. The meetings are open to all and have been running since May 2013 on Thursdays 6:30-8m at University of Westminster, Department of Politics and International Relations.
London School of Philosophy
Founded by a group of seven lecturers formerly employed by Birkbeck College, following the reduction of the Birkbeck Philosophy Certificate programme. Provide philosophy courses that cover key areas of philosophy in an accessible way. The school is independent and receives no government funding, that offer courses at competitive rates by keeping administration costs down.
2003 Los Angeles
2006 Cyprus (cancelled)
The Margate School (TMS)
An independent liberal art school with post-graduate provision and community outreach that is operated on a non-profit, self-sustaining basis in and for Margate. They are developing a range of short courses, technical courses and professional development across liberal arts and media disciplines ranging from MA courses to day courses as well as studios, workspaces and technical facilities whilst reaching out to the local community. The curriculum is guided by project-based collaborative learning.
Founded in 2010 by the artist Wael Shawky, with a great deal of institutional support, to provide independent study and learning for artists in Egypt. The 440-sqm space in the basement of a residential building in Miami, east-Alexandria was a shared studio, meeting, screening and performance space. Through its program, MASS Alexandria aimed to complement existing art education schemes, with a focus on the conceptual aspects of artistic production. Monthly workshops, seminars and lectures were led by artists, art educators and curators. Through the exploration of contemporary artistic practices, the program encouraged students to work closely with cultural, artistic and scientific ideas in the fields of art history and theory and inter-disciplinary studies.
MFA no MFA
Artists of the incoming class of MFA students at USC Roski School of Art and Design, who in the fall of 2014 dropped out in protest against student debt.
Founded by artists, Piero Golia and Eric Wesley to create an educational community providing free instruction for an expansive field of inquiry. MSA^ considers itself a supplement and amendment to the university system. It is the oldest, continuous artist-run school in California offering an independent program with a serious and obligated faculty in a series of guest lectures on philosophy, art history, science and general studies. The school is open each year to selected students from all over the world. There are no fees for enrolling or for attending classes. The school runs from January to April in the upstairs room of a bar.
The Network 11 is a peer group of artists who are grappling with contemporary art practice. Taking their cue from the Pan African Connection and the BLK Art Group in the 1970s/80s, they came together as a new generation of professionals that will reignite relevant discussions brought about by older generations and raise new questions about the position of British-based artists of colour and LGBT communities. Recipient of the first Cubitt Peer Forum from November 2015 to May 2016.
New Independent Art School
New World Academy
2012 Leiden / Utrecht
Nomad Art School
2015 London / UK
Nomad Art School is an open, permanent, free, and itinerant Art School, where artists offer their knowledge, in person or virtually: no syllabus, no selection, no accreditation. The school is itinerant because it uses places and spaces available free to the community for the common good, permanent because, whenever possible, it aims to broadcast and maintain a record of all its events. Consequently, there is no certificate at the end of the course, because it is not a course, and so never ends. There is no syllabus, because content is offered by artists willing and able to provide it. There is no selection, because all one needs to do to be a student is turn up, and participate in lessons.
Open School East (OSE)
2013 East London / 2017 Margate
Open School East (OSE) creates an environment for artistic learning that is free, collaborative and brings together diverse voices. We do this by providing tuition and studio space to emerging artists, and by producing and hosting cultural events, social activities and projects for and with everyone. Initial backing £110,000 from the Barbican and Create London.
2008 New York / International
OurGoods is a resource sharing network to enable creative people help each other produce independent projects. Members trade skills, spaces and objects to get their work done without money. More work gets done in networks of shared respect and shared resources than in competitive isolation. OurGoods cultivates resource sharing through events, a Facebook group, a newsletter and partnerships with existing organizations. Emerging with the rise of so-called sharing platforms, OurGoods challenged them to share power and resources with their members. Proprietary, for profit organizations cannot constitute a “sharing economy.” Rather theirs is a “renting economy,” where an information commons has been enclosed. They support projects such as the Good Work Code and conferences and publications such as Platform Cooperativism that continue this conversation. If you would like to speak with them about OurGoods, hosting a live resource sharing event, the future of resource sharing, or the best way to build an online network, please contact them.
An international alliance of artists, artistic researchers and writers, gathered to discuss and explore collectivity, and to support one another’s individual endeavors. PACTO seeks to inquire how to work together and what that means through practice-led processes. PACTO is a growing intersectional, anti-hierarchical and decentralized group. Members live and work in London, Athens, Leiden, Amsterdam, Milan, and Porto. Their projects and working practice ranges from exhibitions to workshops, from discussions to collaborative writing and reflects their trans-locality. They investigate the possibilities of collective work as an alternative to individualized practice, and seek to facilitate collaborations with other artists, researchers, writers and collectives.
Peer Sessions is a nomadic crit group providing a forum for the discussion of contemporary art. Monthly meetings aim to offer constructive feedback to practicing artists and engage with current concerns in art and culture. In addition to monthly crits, Peer Sessions organise projects focussed on facilitating and supporting artistic collaboration. Founded in 2009 by Kate Pickering and Charlotte Warne Thomas after graduating from Goldsmiths MFA. “From its beginnings as a monthly get-together for artist-led peer support, Peer Sessions’ remit has expanded to include residencies, exhibitions, educational and collaborative workshops for artists, and public education workshops on engaging in contemporary art”. Peer Sessions meetings are held monthly at 7pm on a weekday evening. In each session two artists present recent work for feedback. Any practising artist can join.
A collaboration between @.ac and Levenshulme Contemporary Art Centre (LCAC). “@.ac is dedicated to the salvation of the art school and, if not its salvation, its eradication and replacement as social form”. The school is defined as “a formless monstrosity… an entirely autonomous, democratic, non-heirarchical, rhizomatic, arts collective without any permanent members”. LCAC is a Manchester-based collective of artists and thinkers interested in the politics of social space. They transform marginal, abandoned and contested sites around the city into arenas of critical discussion and reflection.
Public School, The
2007 Los Angeles
A school with no curriculum. A framework that supports autodidactic activities. Classes are proposed by the public and when enough people have expressed interest the school offers the classes to those who signed up. It was initiated by Telic Arts Exchange, it was also set up by Komplot at Nadine in Brussels, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Common Room in New York City, Bétonsalon in Paris, Philadelphia and San Juan. The Public School website is down but they are working on an archive of the proposal, class, and event data, in the meantime you can view a timeline via otherpossibleworlds.net.
2008 London / UK
Organises open-submission group crits that are open to the public. Q-Art is an art education research, publishing, and events organisation, which aims to break down the barriers to further and higher level art education and contemporary art.
Radical Education Forum
A group of people working in a wide range of educational settings who meet monthly to discuss radical pedagogical theories and techniques, and contemporary issues of interest to those involved in education. They are interested in how these theories and questions can inform their practice. The Forum supports social justice in education, linking practitioners within mainstream educational institutions, community education initiatives, social movements, arts organisations and self-organised groups. Meetings are held on the last Monday of every month at the Common House from 7-9pm and are open to all.
RED Learning Co-operative
A group of cooperators who conduct research and run collaborative education and training that leads to social change.
School of Machines, Making & Make Believe
“…keen on inventing one-of-a-kind hands-on learning experiences in the areas of art, technology, design, and human connection. We embrace art, creativity and exploring the latest technology and ourselves with openness and curiosity.”
School of the Alternative
2016 Black Mountain
An experiment in education and community. Aims to provide a passion-driven model of education that encourages greater possibilities for thought, creation and collective action. Instead of a traditional classroom environment, their campus supports a collectively built, self-directed approach to learning, which gives opportunity for all participants to learn and teach. Summer sessions are currently held on the original campus of Black Mountain College, originally called Black Mountain School.
School of The Damned (SOTD)
2014 London / UK
A free, artist-led postgraduate art course run by and for its students. It was founded as a reaction to the increasing financialisation of higher education, by its first year of students (Class of 2014). The school is constantly redefined by the motives of its students. It is decentralised and seeks to include and unify artists across the UK and is committed to running crits and events outside London, making use of students’ networks. The group meets once a month for the core programme, which consists of presentations from guest visitors, crits and a business meeting. Each year re-writes the manifesto written by the previous year, each year’s manifesto is published on the website. By the end of the year, students in the school have been administrators, promoters, assessors and the passers-on of their experiences and contacts to the following year, taking on every role it takes to run a school. The students also organise and collaborate on other projects, exhibitions, meetings, talks, interviews, workshops, which all form part of the programme of study. The student body selects two or three guests to attend the monthly critique sessions. Guests are remunerated for their time through the School’s Labour Exchange Programme. Each year group is selected by the previous year group through an open call. The next open call will be in December 2017 and the year will begin in February 2018.
School of Speculation (SOS)
An independent and nomadic critical design school that aims to challenge current models of delivering higher education and push back at the rise of vocational, workplace-based training in universities. SOS aims to increase intersectional diversity in design education as well as promoting the Arts as education by bringing together artists, students and designers at the bleeding edge of critical practice. Through partnerships between museums, galleries, libraries and other public institutions, SOS aims to build relationships between the diverse latent pedagogy in our cities to create a different kind of educational offer.
Scotland Road Free School
A short-lived experiment in democratic education and free-schooling started by two Liverpool teachers, John Ord and Bill Murphy. The Times Educational Supplement reported in December 1970 that the school would have “no headmaster, nor hierarchy nor recognise any central authority, but be controlled by the parents, children and teachers together“. In 1992 BBC made a film about the school called Lessons In Freedom: The Scotland Road Free School.
Self-Organized Seminar (SOS)
2011-2013 Iowa, USA
A collective of graduate art students who engaged in “autonomous learning” and institutional critique within and beyond the university. They worked collectively to problematise the professionalization of their art degree, labor and atomization in the neoliberal university. SOS was a reading group and a research project, organising events on the relationship of academia to systems of domination and oppression.
2012 London / Europe
An alternative school for refugees and asylum seekers set up by Turkish artist Ahmet Ögüt during his residency at the Tate Modern 2012 and now runs courses in several European countries.
2009 Mexico City
Social Science Centre (SSC)
The SSC was an experiment in free, co-operative higher education. It was created as a critique of and an alternative to higher education in the UK. Former members of the Centre are currently developing a Co-operative University with degree-awarding powers. The SSC offered free higher education in Lincoln and was run by its members. It was formally constituted in May 2011 with help from the local Co-operative Development Agency. There was no fee for learning or teaching, members contributed financially or with their time on a voluntary basis.
studioELL is a Brooklyn-based, hybrid, transient, higher education fine art learning space that offers online and physical courses, residencies and programs in studio art. studioELL courses are offered to artists at any level of their career, regardless of degree or level of education. Courses are practice-based and are intended to help artists develop their ongoing studio practice. Part critique, part studio visit, part higher education, part continuing education, studioELL reconsiders the possibilities of education and support by constructing new spaces for critique and development, with the understanding that we all have much to offer each other throughout our careers.
Syllabus (Wysing Arts Centre)
2015 Wysing / UK
The Syllabus is a peer-led, non-prescriptive postgraduate alternative managed by Wysing Arts Centre (Cambridge), Eastside Projects (Birmingham), S1 Artspace (Sheffield), Spike Island (Bristol), Studio Voltaire (London), New Contemporaries (London). It is a 10-month programme centred around a series of intensive retreats which are delivered by artists, curators, writers and other practitioners and hosted by a partnership of six England-wide nonprofit visual arts organizations. “Networks” and “conversations” are two of the most frequently used words by those describing the Syllabus. The Syllabus curriculum is intended to foster critical engagement with artists’ practices and what it means to be an artist now and as such will adapt with each iteration. Partner organizations host retreats at roughly two-month intervals, starting and ending at Wysing. Between each retreat, the artists are assigned readings and maintain discussions, sharing suggestions for future weekends.
the tuition for Syllabus is £3000, due to Wysing Art Centre’s Arts Council England funding, Syllabus participants pay only £500, plus an est additional £500 travel. Selection through an Open Call.
The Other MA (TOMA)
2015 Southend-on-Sea, UK
TOMA is a response to the fact that many artists who wish to continue their learning and critical discourse with peers are unable to access most current MA provisions for a number of reasons. Designed to fit the everyday lives of contemporary working artists TOMA is a space to work and develop practice within a critical framework for postgraduate level. TOMA is an unaccredited MA in the traditional sense, but provides a programme of learning that benefits the practice of artists in the same way. A socially engaged model, which works as an artist led co-operative, TOMA takes on parts of the structure of a standard art MA, but is also responsive to its artists. Participants directly steer the study programme, choosing those who comes to teach on it and the topics explored. Funded by its participants TOMA costs £75 per month towards visiting artists, lecturers, practical workshops, a personal tutor, offsite projects, exhibitions, a programme co-ordinator and bookable spaces to make work. TOMA is transparent to participants showing where their money goes each month.
Peer lead, collaborative programme that meets monthly at Coachwerks in Brighton. The aim is to provide workshops, lectures and experiences that help the participants learn more about their practices, the industry and arts education away from the restraints of an institution. They are all practicing artists, designers, recent graduates or educators.
2009 New York / International
Trade School is a non-traditional learning community that runs on barter. We celebrate local wisdom, mutual respect, and the social nature of exchange. The Trade School network is a collective of self-organized barter-for-knowledge schools across the world. Trade School began January of 2009 as an experiment by a group of New York City artists (Caroline Woolard, Rich Watts, and Louise Ma) who built OurGoods, a resource sharing network for the creative community. They received an opportunity to work with a storefront, and came up with barter for knowledge. Over the course of 35 days, more than 800 people participated in 76 single session classes. Classes ranged from scrabble strategy to composting, from grant writing to ghost hunting. In exchange for instruction, teachers received running shoes to mixed CDs to flowers. In 2012, Or Zubalsky joined the team and built an open-source web platform to share with interested local organizers. Today, a collective of local Trade School organizers in different cities across the world organize the project.
Turps Banana is a painting school, art magazine, gallery and studios in South East London focused on painting. The Turps Studio Programme supports mentoring, peer-led learning and invited artists/speakers within an open studio environment. The Correspondence Course is a year long programme of one to one online mentoring with an assigned tutor. Turps Surgeries are individual and group tutorials at Turps Studios. The studio programme runs from Sept-July, the online correspondence course runs from Oct–Aug. The core programme is led and delivered by Marcus Harvey, Phil Allen and Helen Hayward.
2015 North Amercia
Network of radical organizers within, against, and beyond the neoliberal, (neo)colonial university in North America. The network provides common resources on alternatives to gentrification, commercialization, rising student debt and tuition, low wages for university staff and contract labor, and the academy’s attempts to hold a monopoly on the production of knowledge. They work in the tradition of militant inquiry: bottom-up collective learning dedicated to building community capacities for radical social change. They support alternative projects, host encounters and disseminate information and resources to help build solidarity around radical and marginalized forms of knowledge and to sustain and amplify the undercommons; networks of struggle, study and creativity that exist within, outside and in spite of the university.
University for Strategic Optimism
The University for Strategic Optimism was based on the principal of free and open education, a return of politics to the public and the politicisation of public space. “As our university buildings are being boarded up we inhabit the bank as public space. Not just a public space but the proper and poignant place for the introductory lecture to our course entitled ‘Higher Education, Neo-Liberalism and the State’. We will take up only five minutes of your time for our inaugural lecture but will reconvene in different locations on the dates to be found on the syllabus that should be circulating” —University for Strategic Optimism Inaugural lecture, Lloyds TSB, Borough High Street, 24 Nov 2010
VOID Art School
An artist-led model autonomous Art School existing outside of curriculum based schooling and formal education to address the lack of Higher Education provision in Derry-Londonderry.
Workers’ Educational Association (WEA)
1903 England and Scotland
Voluntary charity providing accessible adult education for communities, including basic maths, English and IT skills for employment, courses to improve health and wellbeing and creative programmes.
Women’s School of Planning and Architecture (WSPA)
1974-1981 United States
An experimental, non-hierarchical, participatory education programme co-founded by Katrin Adam, Phyllis Birkby, Ellen Perry Berkeley, Bobbie Sue Hood, Marie Kennedy, Joan Forrester Sprague, and Leslie Kanes Weisman to provide alternative, active learning experiences for women interested in the built environment, regardless of academic background or training. WSPA’s pedagogy emphasized both personal transformation and social change.