What is a School of Arts
It is very useful — when trying to explain why the name School of Arts was adopted — to remember that the full title of the first School of Arts to be established in 1821 [the Edinburgh School of Arts] was ‘The School of Arts of Edinburgh for the Education of Mechanics in such branches of the Physical Science as are of Practical Application in their Several Trades’ and that the oldest Australian Institute [founded in 1833] is called the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.
The ‘ARTS’ we are talking about here are not ‘the fine arts’, not the performing arts; they are the practical arts: e.g. the domestic arts; the manual arts; the industrial arts, etc.
Except for the special cases of the very earliest schools, such as the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts [SMSA], which is incorporated under its own act of the NSW colonial parliament, a School of Arts is an institution formed by a group of members represented legally by trustees.
These trustees are responsible for holding a piece of land (often granted by the government or donated by a local citizen or citizens) and for maintaining a building (usually erected by public subscription, often with assistance from a government subsidy) for public purposes.
The original purpose, for which the School was formed and the building was built, was to provide for some combination of adult educational and recreational activities.
In NSW, the major piece of legislation that regulates the operation of most Schools of Arts is the Trustees of Schools of Arts Enabling Act, 1902 as amended.