What is left of the once celebrated Cheltenham School of Art (founded over 150 years ago) is now located in the University of Gloucestershire's Hardwick Campus. I went there for the first time yesterday: Transition Town Cheltenham's Heart and Soul Group were running an Art of Transition course there. It was well subscribed, the keynote speech being by the University's Arran Stibbe, assisted by his five-year-old son. Arran's theme was that images - not necessarily artistic - can help to point the way towards a new lifestyle for communities.
This made sense to me, as a Christian member of the Group - rather like religious images as an aid to prayer. Yet, as Sara Maitland points out in a thoughtful article in this week’s Tablet, “Our God creates by speaking and most usually communicates with that Creation through words and songs – rather than direct visual appearances.”
Arran's is, furthermore, art as function, not for art's sake; though perhaps our problem is that we lose sight of things for their own sake. Certainly, it's difficult to avoid putting a price on everything: free entry to the Heart and Soul group's "heartening" event - complementary biscuits and juices into the bargain - no doubt helped those attending (myself included) to feel they were walking the talk.
The photograph shows local graphic designer, Jacqui Brown's practical art workshop: she had raided the marvellous Gloucester Scrapstore for our benefit. (On Thursday, the Gloucestershire Churches Environmental Justice Network heard Richard Walter of the local Community Energy Co-operative talk about the huge PV array recently-installed on the Scrapstore roof: it should yield £1800 a month in Summertime!)
Besides Jacqui's workshop, Pat Dannahy ran a session on The art of Communication, and Lesley O'Neill a workshop on the Artist's Way.