Wentworth’s art studios have been threatened with closure, which would lead to the loss of the connected Tutor In Art positions as well as the only space for making practical art on campus. Having previously been reliant on the University, the studios must find an alternative source of funding within 4-6 weeks if they are to remain open.
The decision to close the art studios, which have been a feature on campus for at least 10 years, has been influenced by a budgetary shortfall within the University’s coming financial year. Estimates suggest that closing the studios would save around £10,000 annually.
However, an online petition has already been developed in opposition to this measure. It argues that the £10,000 is “a pretty insignificant sum compared to the significance of what the studios lend to the balance of what the University campus has to offer”.
Kenza Auniere, creator of this petition, has argued that the studios provide “a holistic learning experience at university rather than one based on economy and yield”, and enable “interaction between students/campus life and the wider York community”.
Furthermore, she added that the studios have a positive impact on “health and wellbeing…particularly mental health”. Rose Miller, commenting on the petition, wrote that “my sister has completely turned her life around and recovered from her depression since starting to use the studios”.
Others have also argued that the money required to keep the studios open is negligible compared to other investments. Barbara Beer commented to add that “shutting it down cannot be the answer to bigger financial problems when the Uni is investing elsewhere (new buildings all around)”. Auniere also asserted the studios were a counterbalance to “the heavy emphasis on academia and sports on campus”.
Tutor in Art Freya Horsley argued that the studios have had a “positive impact…on such a wide cross-section of the University community”, since they were used by students, staff and alumni. She argued they were a place for “creativity, for meeting people, for relaxing, for learning new skills, for improving languages: the list goes on. It would be a grave mistake for the University to let this invaluable resource be wiped out for good.”
Talks are currently underway to decide the fate of the studios. The Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost met with student representatives from the Department of History of Art this week, in order to better understand their grievances and consider the best option.
David Duncan, Registrar and Secretary, commented “we are currently looking at the studios, but no decisions have been made as yet. We are keen to keep the studios open for students, but need to consider the level of investment in this area alongside other spending priorities.”
YUSU President Ben Leatham said: “The number of people who have signed the petition about the Wentworth Art Studios shows how important creative spaces on campus are.
“I am currently in talks with students to find out how they use the space and with University staff to better understand their plans. I will be doing my utmost to ensure the University talks to students and considers all options before taking any action.”