Open Cambridge 2023

Open Cambridge takes place each Summer and gives Cambridge Colleges an opportunity to showcase their facilities to members of the public. 

This year, as well as a repeat of the Vice Principal’s extremely successful and interesting tour of the new dining hall, we ran a small exhibition and workshop on the work of Kay Melzi, an artist who is represented by many works in the College and archive collection.

Kathleen (Kay) Melzi was an inspirational Art teacher at Homerton College from 1938 until her retirement in 1970. Her unique character and encouraging teaching meant that she was an inspiration to generations of students. During her time at Homerton College, she helped students to craft ceramics to very high standards and she made a significant contribution to the improvement of Art teaching in schools. Her 1967 book Art in the Primary School is still regarded as a standard textbook. During the Second World War, she ran art classes on Saturday mornings for evacuees, and continued these with local children after the war ended.

As well as an inspirational teacher, Kay Melzi was also a respected artist in her own right, and a number of her artworks are displayed in Homerton College. She studied at the Royal College of Art, and it was her influence that persuaded the celebrated war artist Henry Lamb to paint the portrait of Principal Alice Skillicorn in 1954 which hangs in The Great Hall.

Homerton Porter Billy Kerry ran a workshop for a small group of practicing and novice artists which explored the methods and ethos of Kay Melzi’s work.  On a blistering hot day Billy took his group into the shade of the orchard where the creations began.  It was far too hot to run through all the ideas planned for the afternoon so it is likely that we will repeat this idea at a future date with a larger exhibition that incorporates Kay’s work with some of her Cambridge contemporaries.  We were pleased with the positive response and enthusiasm from those who attended the workshop and the many members of the public who visited the exhibition, many of whom either worked with or were taught by Kay herself.

Photography by Sally Nott.