Communal Luxury and the Universal Republic of the Arts: Transcultural Flows of Art Pedagogy

Common Ground Publishing
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Beyond community engagement: Transforming dialogues in art, education and the cultural sphere., 2018, pp. 85 - 100
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In France, the relationship between art, education and community has been a longstanding topic of discussion amongst artists, particularly in 1871 during the Paris working class uprising known as the Commune. These ideals have included the belief that art responds to the needs of the community and the valorisation of pedagogy. Whilst scholarly work exists on the transformative visions of artists' role in France with regard to art pedagogy and national interest, little is known about the transcultural flows of these ideologies and the potential for these cultural transfers to influence and transform community understandings of art and art pedagogy. This paper examines the case study of Lucien Henry, a French artist, who was convicted of treason during the Paris uprising and banished to a penal colony in New Caledonia. Upon his release, rather than return to France, he settled in Australia from 1879 to 1891, and was appointed the first Instructor in the Department of Art at Sydney Technical College. Henry's teachings and decorative work mirrored the revolutionary ideas taking place in France in the second half of the 19th century, yet transposed these ideals into an Australian model that championed the urban landscape and validated a local sense of belonging and engagement. Moreover, Henry's work introduced visionary ways of understanding community that included Australian republican values, topics that remain relevant in contemporary Australian public discourse. Using a transcultural framework, this paper suggests that the relationship between community engagement, art and education can be associated with cultural flows of ideas that connect with and transform the local. It will do this by examining Henry's ideology and designs that are found in letters and articles written by the artist during his period in Australia.
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