West Dean College of Arts and Conservation announced its first three fellowships at the College’s 2019 Graduation Ceremony on Saturday, July 13, 2019. The College’s first-ever fellows are Jonathan Ashley-Smith, Rebecca Salter RA and Dawn Ades OBE, who are all active supporters of the College and eminent in their sphere. The fellows joined students graduating with degrees and diplomas, from foundation, graduate and professional development diplomas to masters degrees in arts and conservation. 26 special awards were presented to students by Jonathan Ashley-Smith, Rebecca Salter and Peter Benson, chair of trustees during the ceremony.
Director of Education Francine Norris MA FRSA comments: “I am delighted that West Dean College has conferred honorary fellowships on three outstanding individuals who have made a significant contribution to the fields of arts and conservation. Each has established a reputation for excellence in their subject specialisms, and we are pleased that they have accepted the fellowships in this inaugural year. We look forward to working with them to further promote our shared agendas in promoting the importance of craft skills in the fields of education, creativity and conservation.”
Dawn Ades, born in 1943, is a fellow of the British Academy, a trustee of Tate and was awarded an OBE in 2002 for her services to art history. She has been responsible for some of the most important exhibitions in London and overseas over the past thirty years, including Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, Art in Latin America and Francis Bacon. She organised the highly successful exhibition to celebrate the centenary of Salvador Dali shown in Venice and Philadelphia in 2004 and has published standard works on photomontage, Dada, Surrealism, women artists and Mexican muralists. Dawn is now partially retired but continues to supervise PhD students.
With regards to the fellowship, she said: “I am honoured to be receiving the fellowship at West Dean College. The College has welcomed me over many years to explore its incomparable archive. I am delighted now to have a closer relationship with the College and to have the opportunity to continue research on Edward James, whose important legacy is being so imaginatively safe-guarded and promoted.”
Jonathan Ashley-Smith is an independent teacher, researcher and consultant in the field of cultural heritage risk. He studied chemistry to post-doctoral level at the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge and subsequently worked as a metalwork conservator and analytical scientist from 1973 to 977 at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) London. Between 1977 and 2002 he was head of conservation at the V&A. In 1994 he was awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship to study risk methodologies, resulting in the book Risk Assessment for Object Conservation, published in 1999. In 2000 he was awarded the Plowden medal for his contribution to the conservation profession. He was Secretary-General and Council member of the International Institute for Conservation (IIC) 2003-2006. He was visiting professor in the conservation department of the Royal College of Art, London from 2000 to 2010 and supervised research students at a number of UK universities on projects relating to risk, ethics and ethnography. Most recently he was project leader for the damage and risk assessment module of the EC research project “Climate for Culture” looking at risks to collections and interior decoration arising from predicted climate change. Jonathan’s interests are mostly in the area of decision-making in cultural heritage conservation, ranging across conservation ethics, risk-benefit studies, sustainability and the precautionary principle.
He noted: “West Dean and I are close conservation contemporaries. The first courses at West Dean opened in autumn 1972. I joined the V&A conservation department in January 1973. However, for the past five years I have been researching the risk of the loss of hand skills in conservation. West Dean College maintains an enviable international reputation for its emphasis on the development of practical skill; the fellowship residency will enable me to pursue my research in an active environment.”
Rebecca Salter RA (b. 1955) is a British abstract artist who lives and works in London. Previously a ceramicist, she is best known as painter and printmaker. Salter specialises in woodblock printing, combining Western and Eastern traditions. She wrote two reputable books on Japanese wood blocks: Japanese Woodblock (2001) and Japanese Popular Prints: From Votive Slips to Playing Cards (2006). She currently acts as keeper of the schools of the Royal Academy of Arts in London—one of the four officers governing the RA.
She commented: “I am delighted to have been awarded a fellowship at West Dean, a place which has kept alive the spirit and practice of ‘making’. I look forward to contributing to the debate around the importance of all forms of creative practice to nurturing a healthy society.”