Are you equipped to be useful? Issue no.4

Are you equipped to be useful? Issue no.4

Publication produced as a response to our symposium, For What it’s worth: The Relevance of Art Education Today, by Steve Pool and Kate Geneva from Poly-Technic:


Are you equipped to be useful?

Was the question we asked at the University of Leeds Fine Art symposium – For
what its worth: the relevance of art education today. This event,
organised by the students, complimented their final degree show – £383,911.73

We think we were well aware that the question was value laden and open to
interpretation.The responses from the audience were varied and valid. The debate 

essentially focussed not around if people were equipped to be useful, rather should
art be useful? At a time when we are fighting a corner for cultural provision it is
perhaps necessary to expand this question. Could we reframe it and ask “When is it
useful to be useless?” But this too seems like very unstable high ground on which to
build our stockade. Instead we at the Poly-Technic would like to move beyond the
binary of instrumental art, art with a social purpose -socially engaged practice, to
place art back at the heart of the everyday, which reinforces culture as ordinary.
We were of course interested in asking the original question – Are you equipped to be
useful? as a proposition for deep reflection and consideration of talents and skills.

We were asking about being ready and relevant in the wider world – it was never
asked as a critique of the course at Leeds. We, Steve and Kate, have an ambition to
be artists in the world not just the art world and as such the question seemed
pertinent. Believing change is coming we feel we need to prove the value of the arts
in society through action and agency.

What follows are the hand written responses collected after our presentation – it
makes for interesting reading.

This publication will be produced in a limited edition and will not be available for
sale. For a free pdf downloadable version visit:

Finally, we would like thank the students [in particular Clare McCormack, Beth
Cowley and Phoebe Eustance] and staff at the University of Leeds – Fine Art and
wish them good luck for the future.

Kate and Steve
July 2013.


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