End of an era for West Notts College’s Ashfield House

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Current and former students and staff at West Nottinghamshire College have said an emotional farewell to a special place of learning that has produced generations of creative artists.

In September, the college’s visual arts and design curriculum is relocating from its Chesterfield Road site to its main Derby Road campus.

A £2.3 million scheme currently under way will see the Derby Road building transformed into a contemporary two-storey visual arts centre boasting state-of-the-art resources, improved teaching space and bright and airy exhibition areas.

It means students and tutors on a range of visual arts and design courses will be located on the same campus as their counterparts from the rest of the college’s school of creative industries.

The move brings the curtain down on more than 80 years of art, design and craft being taught at the Chesterfield Road site, while also signalling the start of an exciting new era for creative artists in the town.

To mark the occasion gathered at a special event to celebrate how it had shaped their lives.

As well as catching up with ex-classmates and tutors, those attending took a trip down memory lane, courtesy of an exhibition of old photographs while others brought in pieces of art to form a pop-up exhibition.

Many people swapped stories about their time at college and paid emotional tributes to the building.

Florence Pick (18) said: “We started coming to the Chesterfield Road campus aged 7 on the Saturday morning art workshops right up until we were 15.

“The girls I met are now lifelong friends and I spent my childhood with them. Even though we are at university or doing other things, we still meet up and we always remember that this is where we met.

“We had such a great time at college and have so many fun memories. We did lots of experimental art on our course.”

Colette Reders (23) was a student four years ago on the site’s art foundation course then went on to study to decorative arts in Nottingham.

She said: “This building has a great atmosphere and attracts good people and creates a friendly community. The time I spent here was one of the best years of my life.”

Tutor Julian Bray said: “It has been an amazing day and I am delighted with the response to the post on Facebook. It is marvellous to see so many people turn up today.

“We have seen people from right across the generations, including ex-tutors from the 70s, students from the 1960s and current students.

“Everyone has such fond memories of this building.

“They have said how it reminds them of happy times when they were students and free from mortgages, free of adult concerns and able to express themselves and find out what they were good at in life.”

The Chesterfield Road site has been home to Mansfield’s arts provision since 1930, when the original School of Art moved from Carr Bank to Ashfield House and its purpose-built adjoining studio block, which still bears the engraved ‘School of Art’ sign above its pillared entrance.

Ashfield House, formerly a Georgian home, had been occupied by the Parsons family from the 1800s before being sold in 1922 for the temporary use as Mansfield Technical College while the main building at the front of the site was being built.

The college’s new visual arts centre at Derby Road forms part of the college’s ongoing £40 million investment in its buildings and facilities across Mansfield and Ashfield.