Museum and Heritage Studies, 2016
Victoria’s Faculty of Education has had many different lives during its long history. Originally it was known as the Wellington Teachers’ Training College, which was founded in 1880.
Economic depressions closed the College twice: in the 1880s and in the 1930s. It reopened in 1936 in the middle of significant changes in education in New Zealand.
This period of reform saw advocacy for the universal right to a holistic education. It also promoted the idea that education should be as much about personal development as it was about imparting knowledge.
This philosophy was actively practised and taught at the Wellington Teachers’ College.
Creativity and the arts stood at the heart of the College's philosophy. Artistic people, creative courses, and an adventurous art collection combined to create an innovative environment.
Teachers needed to be creative to teach children to explore their own creativity.
The 1980 centenary publication Ako Pai features former students reminiscing about the College’s democratic operation, which allowed them to be freer and develop as individuals.
Doreen Blumhardt, the head of the Arts department in the 1950s and 1960s, recalled that the innovative combined arts courses, “gave first-year students an opportunity to be involved in creative expression, very often for the first time in their lives”.
Some of New Zealand’s most famous creatives have an association with the College, including James K. Baxter, Barry Mitcalfe and Sam Hunt.
Many of the College's staff members were artists in their own right, including none other than Doreen Blumhardt. Blumhardt taught at the school from 1950 and was one of New Zealand’s most renowned potters.
Blumhardt's craft and teaching were completely intertwined, and she thought of herself as an educator first and an artist second.
In Ako Pai she recounted how “almost all” of her students visited her Northland home. For “a morning or an afternoon” she based informal design classes on her collection of art, on her pottery workshop, and her architecturally-designed house.
Blumhardt's paintings, pottery and fabrics were collected from around New Zealand and from her many travels overseas. The impacts of these classes in creativity are clear when she says:
Many of the students in these classes came to realise for the first time what was meant by design in architecture, in interior decoration and in the artefacts themselves, and that problems of design were fundamental to all man-made objects.
In 1992 Blumhardt returned to the College to collaborate with the Ceramics class, producing the mural, Uka-Paka, set in the wall in the main entrance to the Karori Campus.
The College became Victoria University’s Faculty of Education in 2005. In 2016 the Faculty moved to the main Kelburn Campus from its old site in Karori.
Although teaching and education have changed, the College's creative legacy continues to shape the vibrant creative culture here at Victoria.