Over the last 170 years, Leeds Arts University has contributed significantly to the development of art education in Britain, having pioneered new ways to teach and to structure qualifications.
In 1846, the Leeds Mechanics' Institute (which offered drawing classes) merged with the Literary Institute, creating Leeds School of Art. In 1903, it moved to our present Vernon Street building, whose radical design reflected the clean lines of the Art & Craft movement.
The magnificent Merrion Centre mosaics created by Eric Taylor (1909 – 1999), artist and former Principal of Leeds College of Art (1956-1970), have been installed at Leeds Arts University’s Blenheim Walk building.
Following the world wars, ex-service personnel resuming their education filled the College almost to bursting. Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth (enrolling in 1919 and 1920, respectively) were students of this era.
In the late 1920s the art school became known as Leeds College of Art and by 1946, no less than fifteen past students had been appointed as principals of schools of art. As our reputation grew, new design departments were formed, including furniture, graphic design and printmaking. A new pottery and workshops were built, and in 1959 a new library was created.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, there was a reappraisal of art education in Britain, largely based on ideas developed at Leeds, where a large team of practising artists set up the Basic Design Course. Students were now encouraged to adopt a scientific approach, enabling them to develop a capacity for constructive criticism and understanding.
Around that time, the University of Leeds’ new Gregory Fellowship brought many practising artists to Leeds, many of whom came to help out at the College.
In 1960, we began to run courses which encouraged an open-ended, creative and flexible approach, leading to a new system of art education at Leeds and, subsequently, nationwide.
In the mid-1980s our Blenheim Walk building was erected.
In 2017 we gained University status becoming Leeds Arts University, becoming the only specialist arts university in the North of England.
New construction and development continues to this day for the benefit of all our students.