Walthamstow School of Art cultivated some of the most influential creative talent of the 1950s and 60s. Leading names in art, fashion, music and film studied and taught there, including Pop Artists Peter Blake and Derek Boshier, musician Ian Dury, filmmakers Ken Russell and Peter Greenaway and fashion designers Celia Birtwell, Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin. Summer 2017 saw an exhibition at the William Morris Gallery which explored this radical era at the School and showed the early work of these seminal artists and designers, revealing how they were encouraged to explore their creative imagination, taking art and culture in radical new directions.
This incredible era at the School had never been explored or researched in depth, despite the fact that all the leading players cite their time in Walthamstow as key to their later development. For the first time, the early work of these influential artists and designers were brought together in one exhibition, to show how it was in the art schools of post-war Britain, rather than the universities, that the benefits of a free, universal secondary education were most evident.
Accompanying the exhibition, a two-week experimental art school was run on the site of the former School, now Waltham Forest College. Alumni and former tutors including Keith Albarn (b.1939), Terry Day (b.1940) and Laurie Lewis (b.1944) returned to teach classes and explore the legacy of the school alongside contemporary artists including Jeremy Deller (b.1966), Marcus Coates (b.1968) and Anthea Hamilton (b.1978). A series of talks and film screenings also took place.
The full summer school schedule and archive can be found on the website: bemagnificient.co.ukBe Magnificent: Walthamstow School of Art 1957–1967 was delivered in partnership with William Morris Gallery and supported by funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund.