The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts is one of the few places where research into the traditional arts as living, contemporary practices can be pursued. We recognise that for the artist, practice and research are inseparable: arts practice is research. Understanding and knowledge come through the experience of practice. Prompted by questions about techniques, materials, composition, contexts and interpretations, our artists/researchers use practice to explore, conceptualise and communicate what they come to understand and know. Reflecting on their own practice in our setting, they begin to recognise that their arts practice can be a research method, that it can be a way of thinking and knowing, and through the works of art that are produced, a way of communicating.
Traditional artworks are material – made of stone, wood, plaster and pigments. They also have spiritual resonance, stimulating important questions: about the connections between the past and present; about the relevance of our heritage; about what we want to preserve and hand on to future generations; about the integrating role traditional arts can play in our well-being, spirituality and sustainability. Our way of working often helps researchers to understand the connections between materials, the work of art they are producing, and the more important inner work that they may realise through their work of creating.
For students, research at the Prince’s School is more than a series of enquiries or experiments that produce informative findings. It opens doors, forges new connections, reformulates, re-conceptualises. Post-graduate research can often be lonely. But at the Prince’s School we strive to create a supportive, creative environment. There’s a palpable, shared commitment in our community of researchers, masters, other students, staff and alumni. Supervision is expert, conscientious and caring. Undertaking disciplined research in this ambiance makes for an exceptionally effective experience.
Our holistic approach to researching the traditional arts, synthesising practical skills, reflection, knowledge and wisdom, strengthens artistic and personal growth and can be both outwardly and inwardly transformative. When our research alumni leave us and go on to practice and research in other places, they take this understanding with them, inspiring others. They are able to understand their place in relation to tradition in accordance with the words of Thomas Merton as ‘a living assent to a current of uninterrupted vitality’. Their contributions to supporting and regenerating traditional arts and artists in so many parts of the world are now being steadily recognised.