HISK offers a post-academic course in visual arts and provides young artists from Belgium and the world with a workspace and pedagogical guidance for a duration of two years. The emphasis at the HISK lies on individual practice and close contact with a community of distinguished visiting lecturers - artists, writers, curators and scholars. Based on diversity of artistic practices and positions, the unique HISK concept gives the artists every opportunity for critical research within a broader aesthetic, social and political context.
At the end of the two years, the participating artists receive a certificate as a ‘Laureate of the Higher Institute for Fine Arts.’ 258 laureates have graduated from the institute since 1997. The majority of them are now pursuing successful professional careers in the international art world.
HISK is officially recognized as a higher educational institute and is financed by the Flemish Community (the Ministry of Education) and supported by the City of Ghent.
From April 2007 onwards the HISK is housed in the Leopold Barracks in Ghent. Spread over various buildings, it disposes over 26 studios, a screening room, video cells, an exhibition space, administrative spaces, a conference room, a library and a kitchen for the candidate laureates.
The HISK is located at the edge of the Citadel Park, at walking distance from Ghent Saint Peter’s Station and the city centre. It is moreover located at a central point in the City of Ghent’s so-called cultural kilometre. Immediate neighbours are the SMAK (the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art), the Museum of Fine Arts, Sint Pietersabdij Kunsthal (the Saint Peter’s Abbey Art-hall), the City Museum (STAM), the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy of Ghent University and the Department of Fine Arts of University College Ghent.
As a city of knowledge and culture, Ghent is one of the most lively student cities in Flanders which has a fascinating cultural and artistic climate.
The HISK’s housing is subsidised by the City of Ghent – by the Departments of Culture and of Facility Management.
The HISK is developing its identity in the midst of various fields of tension. On the one hand the government expects that an education within the field of contemporary art is provided, and that the conditions are created in which the candidates can develop as independent artists. On the other hand the HISK offers the same qualities as artist's residencies: namely time and space, and the opportunity to develop an individual artistic process at one's own pace and starting from personal motivations. Both approaches engender a tension between the process of learning and the intrinsic dynamic of the artistic practise. This also goes for the synergy between practise and theory.
The challenge for each participant is to find the right balance between the steadfastness of the individually chosen route and being open to criticism and input from without. Between the intensification of one's own work and the broadening of his or her place in society.
The two-year work period at the HISK prepares the candidate-laureate for positioning him or herself as an individual artist. During the course one learns to assimilate the diversity of input from visiting lecturers, fellow candidates and the outside world. The candidate-laureate is approached as a young artist who needs to develop a whole range of competences. Self-organisation, resourcefulness, and the ability to articulate and communicate about one's own work are significant factors. But an artist is also a maker of exhibitions, someone who takes care of the making of books, a builder of websites, an accountant, a producer and, more often than not, his or her own promoter.
The strength of the HISK is its unique pedagogical model that is based on the combination and mutual cross-fertilisation of visiting lectureships, an international focus, a safe haven for experiment and research, a small and flexible structure and the quality of the candidate-laureates. Through active prospection both in Belgium and abroad, and with involvement of the candidate-laureates, a diversified and outstanding corps of guest lecturers is assembled. The global art context is considered both a reference and a counterforce.