Indeed GSA’s student body has always really known how to put on a party – or a talk, or an exhibition – and material in the Archives and Collections provides evidence of such events throughout the School’s history.
At the turn of the 20th century, students (and staff) at The Glasgow School of Art loved nothing more than an occasion which demanded fancy dress, as photographs and costume designs, such as those for A Masque of the City Arms, show. Printed ephemera such as flyers, posters, invitations and tickets document events such as “Tableaux Vivant” and “Masques”. Even some garments survive, including a costume with a fur cape, and a fish-shaped jacket, complete with a shimmering tail.
There were also get togethers known as “At Homes” and it is thought that it was at such events that Charles Rennie Mackintosh met his future wife Margaret Macdonald, as well as other contemporaries that became synonymous with the Glasgow Style, such as Herbert MacNair and Frances Macdonald. This group of students, often referred to as “The Four” were involved, along with fellow students, in the creation of The Magazine, a student publication of which there are four volumes containing poetry, writing, art, and photography. Some of Mackintosh’s most famous artworks were actually originally created for this publication.
The Archives and Collections are also home to other examples of similarly collaborative student outputs, for example a sketchbook compiled c1905-1917 with contributions by the likes of Elizabeth Mary Watt, and a later autograph book from 1935. Other, perhaps more official, student publications include The Palette and MacMag.
Various deposited archive collections related to associations or businesses closely associated with the School, such as The Glasgow School of Art Club, The Glasgow School of Art Dramatic Club and the Student Representative Council, help illustrate further extracurricular activities. Students were also involved in the Kinecraft Society and Glasgow Kino film group. Posters in our holdings advertise events such as exhibitions, parties, talks and dances, some of which took place during “Activities Week”, an event which ran annually from the 1970s until the mid-1980s, during which, classes stopped entirely and various events were organised instead. Posters also feature concerts by the GSA Choir, film screenings, and other musical or theatrical performances.
What is perhaps less well known is that GSA students have been involved in fundraising for various causes throughout the School’s history. For example, during the First World War students and staff held a two day event called the “Belgian Tryst” in 1915 to raise funds for the Belgian Relief fund and the Scottish Red Cross Society. This was followed in 1916 by an exhibition of ancient and modern needlecraft, again to raise money for the Scottish Red Cross Society and other similar charities.
“Charities Week” became a regular feature in GSA’s events calendar from the 1940s. Photographs and documentation attest to the fact that students dressed up and, sometimes, notoriously caused mayhem all around Glasgow, all with the aim of raising money for charity. And what would an art school be without revolutionary spirit? The Records of the Student Representative Council for example, include protest banners collected during demonstrations in the 2010s.
Another regular appearance in the art school calendar from the 1940s right up to the present day is the GSA Fashion Show, evidenced by several garments, posters, photographs, programmes and press cuttings in our holdings, as well as film footage. A research project by Dr Helena Britt concluded in 2017 with an exhibition of related material from the Archives and Collections to mark 70 years in the GSA Fashion Show. Focus on the fashion show during its 70th anniversary year also achieved a number of new donations to the collection from former students involved in the event over the years.
The Archives and Collections continues to collect photographs, ephemera, publications and objects which document student activities. This material provides a wonderful, visual record of the extracurricular life of GSA in all its glory.