This week, the National Art School (NAS) – Australia’s longest-running independent fine art school – announced it was joining an international trend with the formation of the National Centre for Drawing (NCD).
A gallery spokesperson told ArtsHub: ‘It’s more of a concept bringing together lots of elements centred at NAS than an actual place, but we do have a new gallery dedicated to drawing.’
Where better than to punch out the parameters of drawing in our times than an art school?
NAS Director and CEO Steven Alderton explained the new centre would be a focal point for, ‘establishing national and international connections to educational and cultural institutions and organisations, galleries, art communities and practitioners, and to build audiences and public appreciation of drawing.’
His ambition is warranted.
The most celebrated example is The Drawing Centre in downtown Manhattan’s SoHo neighbourhood (USA), which was founded in 1977 by Martha Beck, a former curator of contemporary art in the Department of Drawings at the iconic Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
And then there is the Drawing Room in southeast London (UK), which was formed in 2002 as a not for profit by curators Mary Doyle, Kate Macfarlane and Katharine Stout. It holds one of the largest collections of titles on contemporary drawing in the world.
Both adopt a similar model that NCD has defined: an exhibition space, producer of printed and online publications, centre for research and new ideas, podcaster with in-depth conversations about drawing, bespoke public programs, and host to international and emerging artist residencies through The Drawing Exchange.
At the centre of it all is innovative contemporary drawing practice.
Largely these spaces are about living artists, and a medium that is very much alive – reaching back to the oldest traditions of studio practice to the most cutting-edge, silo-busting practice of our times.
Further, the NCD will remain embedded in its education roots, delivering the annual Margaret Olley Drawing Week with NAS students. Since its origins in 1873, NAS has been teaching the traditional discipline of drawing as a fundamental element of the school’s education.
Image: First year drawing students in the NAS Gallery, 2020. Photo: Peter Morgan