Be Smart About Art

A day at the magical West Dean College (West Sussex, England)

written by: Susan Mumford Feb. 10, 2015 2) 121 Programme: Info, Insight + Inspiration :-) 4496 views

A day at the magical West Dean College (West Sussex, England)

The Be Smart About Art Team travels all over the UK cultural capital delivering talks and workshops, even making it out of the M25 as well as across the pond to the USA.

In this spotlight, I highlight a day spent at the gorgeous West Dean College in West Sussex. They have a world-wide reputation for the study of conservation, making and visual arts. Susan was invited to deliver 1-2-1 sessions plus a workshop on the ‘DOs and DON’Ts of attaining representation’, all with practicing artists who are by and large tutors at the College.

The West Dean Estate encompasses an impressive 6,350-acre once owned by poet and patron of the arts, Edward James. His Foundation formed the College in 1971 and the programme has been going ever since. What impressed Susan most of all (apart from the stunning surroundings, including a camera obscura on the grounds!) was the enthusiasm about West Dean College as expressed by tutors. Several artists who needn’t have teaching work daren’t leave their positions, for the place is so magical, inspirational and supportive for creative souls. 

The ‘office’ for the day was the Boudoir Room, which has the décor to match the description. Between the chaise lounge chair, striped wall paper and dozens of framed pictures covering the walls, the setting was ideal for generating ideas throughout the seven mentoring sessions and professional development workshop.

Staying overnight on the grounds, I had an opportunity to make other discoveries, which only scratched the surface of what’s in store. The Mae West Lips Sofa is a collaborative piece by Salvador Dali and Edward James that dates from 1938. There is also a staircase with footprints stitched into the carpet. These are said to be the footprints of James' wife, famed ballet dander Tilly Losch. (After their divorce, James had the bedroom carpet imprinted with the dog's paw prints, for the canine was said to be a more faithful companion.) The footprints give modern-day viewers an eerie feeling, as if a ghost has just proceeded along the steps. 

Needless to say, I look forward to returning to West Dean College for future professional development sessions.

Check out West Dean College's Short Courses and enjoy a weekend creating, learning and discovering. Who knows what you might unearth!

Chaise Lounge Sofa in the 'Boudoir Room'Ready for the workshop at West Dean College Mae West Lips Sofa (by Salvador Dali and Edward James, 1938) Footsteps stitched into a staircase