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Locked Out of School - Scotland's Online Art School Degree Shows

The cancellation of 2020 degree shows by all four of Scotland’s art schools due to the Covid 19/Coronavirus pandemic has curtailed a rites of passage that ordinarily makes for one of the liveliest weeks in the summer artistic calendar. With input from students and lecturers alike, all four main art schools in Scotland are attempting to plug the gap with an online presence that showcases the work of graduating students as best they can.
Glasgow School of Art has already launched its online showcase, while Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, Edinburgh College of Art and Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen will all be hosting virtual shows between now and July.

While all four schools emphasise the involvement of graduating students in the showcases, a nationwide ‘pause or pay’ campaign has called into question the wisdom of art schools going ahead with them while charging full tuition fees. Pause or Pay UK is calling for the guarantee of a physical degree show by 2020 graduates or an appropriate refund of tuition fees to reflect the loss of teaching and access to studios and other facilities caused by the pandemic. In an open letter to the UK’s Minister for Universities, Michelle Donelan, Pause and Pay UK say they are acting on behalf of studio-based art and design students at twelve institutions, including GSA and ECA. 

Glasgow School of Art MLitt post-graduate students supporting the campaign have also begun a ‘No to Digital Learning and Virtual Degree Show’ petition. This argues for a physical degree show and a delay to the continuation of all studio-based courses until the complete reopening of GSA. It also highlights students having to pay 100% of their tuition fees despite losing 171 days of workshop and equipment access over the last year. To date, the petition has more than 1,200 signatories. Separate petitions by students at ECA, DJCAD and Gray’s, calling for physical degree shows, are also ongoing.

GSA’s Graduate Showcase 2020 was launched at the end of May, and provides a rolling twelve-month digital platform for final year undergraduate and post-graduate students. This has been developed with Glasgow-based graphic design and interaction studio, Rectangle, and shows off work by students from across the GSA’s five schools.
The new site plans to host a series of events, happenings, and videos from across the GSA’s creative community. Graduates will be able to use their digital presence to develop their showcases for the next twelve months, allowing new work to be added as it is made. Beyond this, GSA remains committed to supporting a physical programme of exhibitions and events when distancing restrictions are eventually lifted. 
In Dundee, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design are adopting a similar approach, with their digital Art, Design and Architecture Graduate Showcase 2020 launching in mid-June with a live broadcast. While hope that a physical exhibition of work from this year’s graduating students can be arranged in the future, the Showcase aims to provide them with a platform to show off their work until that is possible. With this in mind, the website will feature expanded information on all students, including extra images and video content.
Under the banner Summer 2020, Edinburgh College of Art are planning a full online showcase of work by graduating students, which will open towards the end of June. This aims to include online conferences, concerts and performances as well as exhibitions. ECA students have set up the 'sadgrads2020' Instagram page to provide another online home for art school graduates across the entire UK whose degree shows were cancelled due to the pandemic. The account has more than 5,000 followers.

In Aberdeen, graduating students at Gray’s School of Art are creating their Virtual Degree Show in collaboration with Gray’s-based  ‘creative unit’, Look Again, who host events and exhibitions throughout Aberdeen, and independent design agency Design and Code. Curated by the students as a fully immersive space, the show aims to open with an online club night, with other events to follow.
As plans for virtual showcases go ahead, Pause or Pay UK’s open letter to Michelle Donelan has sought clarification on statements regarding potential reimbursement of tuition fees for students studying online in relation to the perceived ‘quality’ of the course. The letter also highlights the difficulties of studio-based work being conducted online. Campaigning GSA students, meanwhile, have written twice to the School’s senior management outlining their concerns; the letters can be viewed here.

Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Showcase 2020 can be viewed now at www.gsashowcase.net
Duncan and Jordanstone’s Art, Design and Architecture Graduate Showcase 2020 will be available to view online at www.dundee.ac.uk/graduateshowcase from June 12th.
Edinburgh College of Art’s online showcase can be viewed at www.degreeshow.eca.ed.ac.uk/2020/  from June 26th.
Gray’s School of Art’s Virtual Degree Show will go live on July 10th, with a web page pending.


Scottish Art News online, June 2020

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