Liverpool College of Arts: Art and Design

Our current School of Art and Design can trace its origins back to the foundation of the Mechanics' Institute, or the Mechanics' School of Art as it was first known in 1825, making it the oldest school of art in England outside London.

The portfolio of subjects taught nearly 200 years is very different to today’s art and design curriculum. Naval drawing, modelling and architecture figured prominently in the nineteenth century, but disappeared as shipbuilding on Merseyside declined. Metalwork and jewellery featured up to the mid-twentieth century, as did bookbinding, embroidery, cabinet making, display and window dressing, but increasingly, with the reorganisation of education, many of the professional or ‘trades’ subjects moved into more specialised colleges or declined completely.

Fine Art has remained a constant strength, while contemporary disciplines such as Fashion, Textiles and Graphic Design emerged and flourished during the twentieth century. Architecture returned to the School in 2000 via the College of Building and our School of the Built Environment.

From its enlightened attitudes towards women in education - they were admitted as students from 1832 and the first female tutor, Emma Gammage was appointed in 1858 – to its innovative foundation courses in the 1960s, which helped expand access to education, the School of Art and Design has often been at the forefront of art education. Now housed in the John Lennon Art and Design Building, the School continues to innovate in areas such as 3-D printing and the intersection between art and science. Extensive links with practising artists and designers help today’s students, the artists, architects and designers of the future, secure invaluable industry insights – connections that would no doubt be celebrated by the School’s nineteenth century founders.

  John Lennon (1940 - 1980)

In 1957, John Lennon entered the unconventional environment of the Liverpool College of Art, and it was to provide the springboard for many influential aspects in his life. He met Stuart Sutcliffe, with whom he formed The Beatles. He also met Paul McCartney, then a schoolboy at the neighbouring Liverpool Institute for Boys. McCartney, with George Harrison, would hop over the wall at lunchtime into the College canteen to perform with Lennon and Sutcliffe. Their regular lunchtime jams turned The Quarrymen, as they were known at the time, into the official College band, and their subsequent first recordings were funded by the students’ union.

In 2009, Yoko Ono made a generous philanthropic gift in recognition of Lennon’s connection with the University, enabling LJMU to establish the John Lennon Imagine Awards which support students who have been in local authority care or who are estranged from their parents. In 2010, the University named the John Lennon Art and Design Building in his honour.