‘The object of art is to give life a shape.’ — William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
It’s a brisk Thursday morning in October, and a group of Notre Dame students is out for a stroll along the River Thames in central London. They move along the South Bank as their guide, adjunct art history professor Lois Oliver, points out spots of historical and cultural significance. She takes note of a mother and child combing the bank near the river’s edge. The Thames is tidal, Oliver explains, and when the water recedes one can often find bits of pottery or other materials, some of which can date back to the medieval period. More than a few students are wide-eyed at this.
But this isn’t a sightseeing tour. It’s part of an experiential course called London as Art Capital, which exposes students to the rich art scene here. On today’s excursion, students are exploring a part of the city that has come to symbolize rebirth and rejuvenation. The area was heavily damaged during the Blitz, but by the 1950s, it was a sort of ground zero for an attempt at changing the trajectory of the national mood.
‘This extraordinary festival was planned and took place along this part of the river in 1951,’ Oliver explained. ‘It was called The Festival of Britain, and it was a real celebration of the arts, and technology, and manufacture, and really looking forward to a new prosperous age for Britain.’
Originally published by news.nd.edu on July 17, 2023.at