Anyone who still thinks of art and design as a soft option hasn't seen the latest work. Deedee Cuddihy reports on a touring show for teachers and the public
Anyone who thought Higher art was a soft option compared to other subjects will have their eyes well and truly opened by a touring exhibition making its way around Scotland between now and spring 2001.
The Higher Art and Design show features approximately two dozen folios of design and expressive work submitted to the Scottish Qualifications Authority this year and given the equivalent of A, B or C passes by the examiners.
The exhibition was launched on August 11 at The Lighthouse architecture and design centre in Glasgow, where it has already been visited by hundreds of teachers anxious to see what standards of work are expected under the new Higher Still reforms. (An estimated 50 per cent of schools introduced the new Higher art and design course last year with the remaining 50 per cent following this year).
But Maurice Jackson of the SQA stresses that the Art and Design show is intended for parents and pupils - and other interested members of the public - as well as teachers.
He says: "We didn't want to put the exhibition on in schools but in galleries and other public areas so people can access it off the streets. In that way, we can demonstrate to a much wider audience the range, depth and quality of expressive and design work being produced for the new Higher course and also show teachers the standards they should aim for."
The exhibition illustrates how far Higher art and design has moved from the old days of wallpaper patterns and figure compositions. Now, candidates have to prduce sheets of investigation and development work, as well as the finished pieces, for both expressive (painting, sculpture and so on) and design topics which this year included making a fashion shoe from recycled materials and new ideas for a refugee shelter.
As Maurice Jackson points out: "The Higher art workload for teachers and pupils was already on the heavy side and it may have increased under Higher Still."
The standard and presentation of all the work on display - which comes from further education colleges as well as schools - is excellent and, in some cases, exceptional. Willie Nelson, development officer for art in Glasgow schools, says: "Even in the A band passes, there are some candidates who would rate 150 per cent, if such a thing existed."
Many teachers attending the show in Glasgow have taken photographs as a permanent record of what is expected by the Higher Still examiners. One teacher said: "What's great is that we're seeing anything from other schools. Normally, we don't get the opportunity. We've also had the chance to see marks awarded for the work."
For further information, tel May Byrne of the SQA, 0141 242 2303
Inverness College, September 6-20.
Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery, September 25-October 6
Chessels Gallery, Moray House, Edinburgh, October 9-23
Woodhill House, Aberdeen, October 26-November 6
Sumburgh Airport Terminal, Shetland, November 9-23
Pickaquoy Leisure Centre, Kirkwall, Orkney, December 4-23
Dundee Contemporary Arts, January 15-26
St Andrew's Art Centre, Galashiels, February 5-9
Castle Douglas Art Gallery, February 19-March 2
The Changing Room Gallery, Stirling, March 17-April 7
An Tairbert, Argyll, April 11-25