The origin of the teachings that made the birth of the School of Art of Alcoi possible, formerly the School of Applied Arts and Artistic Crafts, during the 19th century, dates back to the beginning of that century; specifically around the second decade of that period.
At that time, Alcoi, which was undergoing a process of industrial revolution with the introduction of machinery in its industrial sectors (textile, paper and metallurgy), was faced with the need to train local workers, given that importing qualified workforce from foreign countries was difficult and expensive.
For this reason, the Royal Cloth Factory, which brought together Alcoy’s textile manufacturers, created the Scientific and Artistic Establishment on 29th October 1828, which was the first historical reference point for industrial education and arts and crafts in our town. This institution, which began to function in 1829 and lasted until 1837, consisted of four subjects: Grammar, Arithmetic, pure and descriptive Geometry, Mechanics, Physics, Geometric Design applied to the Arts and Chemistry. After this initiative, industrial education was paralysed until 1853. In 1855 it was re-established with the creation of an Elementary Industrial School, which was one of three that were opened in Spain. This, supported by the laws of the State and the Ministry of Development, was financed by municipal and provincial sources and contributions from local industrial companies. The title that was awarded was already official.
The Elementary Industrial School in Alcoy had a preparatory course and three years of teaching, with, among other subjects, drawing, elementary and descriptive geometry, ornamental drawing applied to manufacturing and modelling. Reorganised in 1861 with the incorporation of the degrees of mechanic and chemist, the School continued from 1880 to
1901. Its headquarters were located first in Sant Mateu Street (the former San Vicente Paúl School), and later in an area of the headquarters of the Real Fábrica de Paños (Royal Cloth Factory) in Santa Rita Street.
On the other hand, in November 1886, the First School of Arts and Crafts was created in our city. Its aim was to create workers and foremen who, in the workshop, in the factory, on the building site, would support the engineer, the industrialist, the architect, reducing the efforts of management and leading their work along less routine and more scientific paths, the foundations of progress in all branches of human knowledge, as the secretary Santiago Julià Monllor said in the inaugural report (15th January 1888).
The School, directed by Enrique Vilaplana Julià, was set up in part of the former disentailed convent of Sant Francesc (today Sant Mateu Market). Its teaching consisted of the following subjects: Arithmetic, Geometry and Principles of the Art of Construction; Notions of Physics, Chemistry and Mechanics; Industrial Geometric Drawing with Freehand Instruments; Drawing of Ornament and Figure and Application of Colouring to Ornamentation; Modelling and Casting.
On 4th January 1900, it became an Elementary School of Arts and Industries. By Royal Decree of 17th August 1901, these teachings were modified and split. On the one hand, the Escuela Superior de Industria (Higher Education School of Industry), the basis of the current Escuela Politécnica, was created to train professionals. On the other hand, the Escuela Elemental de Industrias (Elementary School of Industry) was created to train practical workers.
The latter would bring a more languid life, with less protection of our industrial environment. Moreover, when in 1910, the two schools were merged under the name of “Industrial School”, a School of Arts and Crafts, located in the same place as the Industrial School, nevertheless survived with the budget of the Elementary School. This would be a fundamentally artistic teaching, with subjects such as Artistic Drawing, Modelling, Casting and Painting, through which some of our most distinguished creators and artists passed.
And so it continued until 1955, when, following the promulgation of article 35 of the LOFP, the Industrial Schools were reorganised. As a result, the artistic subjects were placed elsewhere, in the Municipal School of Fine Arts, thus eliminating any link with the School of Arts and Crafts.
Nevertheless, and under the impulse of a group of creators from Alcoy, a School of Arts and Crafts was restarted in 1973. Under the management of Rafael Aracil Ruesca, artists and designers such as Concepción Doménech, Inés Albero, Francisco Monllor, Rafael Llorens Ferri, Fidel Aznar Segrelles and Juan Castañar Payá, opened a new School, now in accordance with the 1963 legislation, and as a training centre for designers. Classified in 1976 as an unofficial authorised centre, it had the following specialities recognised: Decoration, Artistic Drawing, Bookbinding, Toys, Carpets, Casting and Modelling. In 1977, Textile Design and Advertising Drawing were added. The first headquarters was located in the old School of Las Paulas, in Sant Mateu Street.
In 1978, the institution was declared as a non-official recognised centre, dependent on the Escuela de Artes y Oficios de Valencia (School of Arts and Crafts of Valencia). The management
changed, and Rafael Aracil was replaced by Eduardo Corbí Cabrera. Finally, on 7th March 1982, it became an official centre, belonging to the Ministry of Education.
In its educational programme, it remained clearly defined as a training centre for designers. It taught the specialities of Industrial Design, Textile-Fashion Design, Graphic Design and Interior Design. Its headquarters changed to Placeta de la Mare de Déu (Mare de Déu Square), being replaced years later by the Colegio de Cervantes (Cervantes School) together with the Colegio de la Uxola (Uxola School).
Finally, with the development of the LOGSE, from the second half of the nineties, its teachings were extended with the Baccalaureate of Arts and the specialities were modified to adapt them to the Intermediate and Advanced Level Training Cycles in Plastic Arts and Design: Final Art in Graphic Design, Illustration, Advertising Graphics, Projects and Management of Decoration Works, Furniture, Clothing Styling and Textile Art. In 2001, the different families of Design Degrees were incorporated.
The history of the Art School in our city is, therefore, the expression of the intersecular effort made by a collective of people to locate the industrial training tool required by the productive structure, not only of the town, but of the whole area. A tool that the future points out as essential to provide value to our products in an increasingly globalised market.
Josep Albert Mestre
Professor d’Història de l’Art.