Sydney’s Art World Up in Arms Over Plans to Close Art School

The decision follows disputes over merging art schools in the city.

Sydney College of the Arts at Callan Park in Rozelle
Photo: @alipoppart Instagram

Talks about the University of Sydney attempting to close down its art school have caused quite a stir within the city’s art world. From donors to art world professionals, several prominent individuals have expressed their discontent about this decision.

The decision follows the recent failure of a planned merger between the University of Sydney art school and the University of New South Wales, just one month after the merger, the details of which remain secret, agreement was signed. The University of Sydney’s Sydney College of the arts plans to close its historic campus at Callan Park in Rozelle.

An open letter to Sydney University’s chancellor Belinda Hutchinson and vice-chancellor Michael Spence expressed outrage at the decision and demanded that this closure be halted. Millionaire arts donor Simon Mordant, former Liberal minister and lobbyist Peter Collins and lord mayor Clover Moore were just some of the prominent figure who helped draft the letter, reports Sydney Morning Herald.

University of Sydney main quadrangle courtesy of Wiki Commons.

University of Sydney main quadrangle courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Influential donors of the University of Sydney Samantha Meers and Penelope Seidler, whom jointly donated roughly $1.75 million to the university in May, also signed the letter, which was shared with the Sydney Morning Herald last week.

Professors of the university predict a domino effect following these incidents, which may lead to donors withholding donations to the university due to their discontent regarding the fate of Sydney Collage of the Arts.

If the closure goes ahead it could not only have negative effects on students and on the reputation of the university as a cultural institute, but also on staff.

“Closures, cuts and amalgamations to these visual arts education institutions also have a negative effect on the teaching staff, the majority of whom are professional artists,” the letter states.

Meanwhile, owners of 25 commercial galleries signed second letter on Wednesday demanding for the Government of NSW to terminate other merger talks between the National Art School and University of NSW, and to allow the University of NSW to maintain its campus at the historic Darlinghurst jail.


Among those who signed the letter asking to keep the schools separate were the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Liz Ann Macgregor and three trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW.

Influential gallerist and philanthropist Roslyn Oxley, the daughter of the founder of Waltons, a large department store chain, also expressed that her desire to maintain separate art schools stems from her desire to preserve diversity in the arts.

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