When the Society was founded in 1823 it had many objectives, one of which was to have its own school. For a number of reasons, mainly financial, this aspiration was shelved. In 1995 Cav. Romeo Di Girolamo, former Head of Amersham School of Art and Design and at the time a Trustee of the RBA, presented a unique scheme to the Council whereby the Society could enter the field of art and design education and be influential at all levels. This included Junior and Secondary Schools, Colleges and Universities, and also launch its own Diploma with options in Painting, Sculpture and Print Making. The scheme would not involve the Society in any expenditure. It would in fact provide some teaching or lecturing for appropriate members who wished to be involved. Under the Presidency of the late Colin Hayes, Cav. Romeo Di Girolamo was granted the authority to go ahead with the scheme.
The first phase, in partnership with Northbrook College, Worthing, was to launch a figurative fine art BA Hons Degree course. This was achieved in 1995 and proved to be a great success. An article by Julian Halsby, about the course, was featured in The Artist Magazine in January 1996. Requests to be affiliated to the Society swiftly followed. These included the Elizabeth Frink School of Sculpture in Stoke-on-Trent, Aylesbury College, Henley College, Banbury College and London Guildhall University. In addition to the above, schools seeking specialist college status, such as Sir William Ramsay School, Hazelmere; Waddeston C of E School; Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School, Aylesbury and The Astor College for the Arts, Dover also sought links with the Society. All these schools were successful in their bids for Arts College status.
In 2004 the Society assisted West Rise Junior School, Langley, East Sussex to launch a Junior Academy emphasising learning via the visual arts. This has proved to be extremely successful, attracting the attention of all three political parties and leading to the young head teacher being elected onto the Arts Council of Great Britain.
The most significant links have been with the Astor College for the Arts. This close partnership has led to plans to build an international art centre and to date has mounted six National Student Exhibitions held alongside the Society’’s annual exhibition at Mall Galleries. These exhibitions have been praised by both Elizabeth Read, Chief Executive, and Sir Cyril Taylor, Chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. His views were expressed in his speech delivered at the opening of the 2005 annual exhibition.
The Marianne Von Werther Memorial Award/Rome Scholarship
As a result of a generous bequest from the late Mr. G H Benn in memory of his late wife (a former member of the RBA), the Society is able to offer an annual scholarship to spend one month at Sala Uno in Rome in July. The main emphasis for this award is that the applicants should demonstrate a high standard in draftsmanship. Subject to Council approval, selected samples of work resulting from the stay in Rome may be shown at the annual exhibition.
Application forms are available from the Secretary.