Stone Academy

 

The Stone Academy exists to

  • raise awareness of the value of stone skills and stone products for the regional economy and our cultural heritage, emphasising the place of creativity in adding value to the district’s skills base.
  • create an educational infrastructure that develops stone skills and an understanding of how stone can be applied in traditional and innovative ways.
  • link the teaching of stone skills to the needs of businesses looking to build the capacity of the local stone sector, thereby securing our reputation as a national hotspot for the trade.

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The Stone Academy-Founding Principles 

The Stone Academy is a training, teaching and research initiative being launched in the North Pennines in 2012 thanks to a four year funding grant from the HLF funded Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership. The business model established to run the academy should enable it to grow over the medium and long term.

The Philosophy

The Stone Academy’s programme draws upon the educational philosophies of John Ruskin, John Dewey, Herbert Read, and others. The model it most seeks to emulate is that of the inter-war Bauhaus in Germany, itself the offspring of the earlier British Arts and Crafts movement.

A foundation course will teach skills relevant to the region’s stone sector and introduсe students  to geology, geomorphology, cultural heritage, archaeology, landscape design, sculpture and aesthetics. Students will then be given access to specialisation in any of the listed fields, either directly or through other providers.

Experiential Learning methods will be used for all aspects of the education programme. The skills training will be pursued through undertaking actual projects in the field. The academic elements will balance classroom work with fieldwork.

Based in the Community

Stone is in the region’s DNA. The purpose of the Stone Academy’s educational philosophy is to build on this by engaging with as broad a public as possible. While a central focus will be on delivering skills and education to school-leavers, job-seekers and adult career-changers, we will also engage with schools, including primary schools. We will offer courses and lectures to the general public, with a view to deepening people’s relation with the place in which they live, work, and visit.

The Jobs Context

The North Pennines, and in particular Teesdale and Weardale, can legitimately be considered a national hotspot for the stone sector. This sector can be an ongoing source of jobs and enterprise in the region for generations to come provided a coherent plan for the sector is adopted

The range of quarried stone products is very varied, from whinstone and limestone aggregates to decorative Frosterley Marble, from top quality building sandstone to walling stone and sandstone slate. Some quarries are operated by multinationals, some are one-man bands. There are a host of renowned masonry businesses operating within a variety of fields based here. There are tool suppliers, there are dry-stone wallers, lettercarvers and sculptors.

The academy will help the district play to its strengths, creating a sophisticated workforce and a more integrated network across the sector able to compete for high specification building/regeneration projects nationally.

Some Background to Stone Academy research and development founder Ewan Allinson 2012

Ewan went to Oxford to study geology in 1984, switching to geography in order to pursue a growing research interest in landscape aesthetics. This research took him to Penn State to complete a Masters degree on John Dewey’s aesthetics and on cultural theory. A Swedish Institute scholarship in Stockholm on aesthetics and culture in 1991 gave way to a freelance career doing sculpture, dry-stone walling(becoming a Master Craftsman and winning the DSWA’s Pinnacle Award in 1994), running self-financed cultural projects, leading on major vision projects, lobbying DCMS and the Scottish Executive on arts policy and trying, from varying angles, to break the mould within the arts, of dependence upon public money by exploring social enterprise business models for arts practice.

Ewan is Vice Chair of the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership.

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