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The show must go on: final year degree shows go online

The show must go on: final year degree shows go online

The final year degree show by students from the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies opens online, and finalists are embracing the opportunity to innovate and challenge tradition.

The University of Leeds degree show, ‘Simmer’, is accessible online  and showcases a range of works as well e-vents and interviews hosted by students.

On entering a virtual lobby, visitors are presented with six gallery environments ranging from the traditional ‘white cube’ to the virtual ‘void.’ 

They can take their time exploring each environment and observe each work in a purposeful setting as they would in a traditional gallery.

“As a School we will remember this year’s graduating artists with great affection, as a remarkable group of young people. We are sure that they have the brightest of futures ahead of them.” 

Dr Joanne Crawford, Head of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

Dr Joanne Crawford, Head of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, said: “This exhibition is not just about the objects on display, it is also about tenacity, frustration and acceptance. It is about each and every student digging deep within themselves and finding new levels of strength and determination.

 “As a School we will remember this year’s graduating artists with great affection, as a remarkable group of young people. We are sure that they have the brightest of futures ahead of them.”

Image for Simmer exhibition

Image credit: Sarah Larby 

Kathleen Lagan, a BA Fine Art with History of Art student leading the marketing team for  SIMMER, said: “In this time of restrictions and rules, there is freedom in our digital degree e-vent. There is no order to follow. Visitors may pick and choose which environments to visit at their leisure, in their own time.

“Working towards this event has been a passion project, powered by the heart and creativity of our collective year. After being presented with the possibility of having no show, we took it upon ourselves to adapt to the current climate and persevere – all the work, conceptualisation and production has been done in-house by the students.

“We were determined not be broken by isolation.”

Image of artwork from the Simmer exhibition

Image credit: Kathleen Lagan

The digital stage 

This summer, BA Theatre and Performance students from the School of Performance and Cultural Industries (PCI) would normally be staging their final year performance project at the University’s licensed theatre, stage@leeds.

With no access to the theatre, the students have adapted their piece into a beautifully-atmospheric audio play – Maleficarum.

“We are always so proud of our students but the sheer determination of this group to adapt their work so creatively and to achieve such amazing results has been remarkable.

Professor Alice O'Grady, Head of the School of Performance and Cultural Industries

Head of School Professor Alice O’Grady said: “We are always so proud of our students but the sheer determination of this group to adapt their work so creatively and to achieve such amazing results has been remarkable.

“They have not just ‘managed’, they have gone above and beyond to create an enduring and inspiring piece of work supported by the School’s wonderful academic staff and the technical team at stage@leeds.

As a response to the pandemic a new platform has emerged, stage@leedsDigital, an online venue for digital performance providing students, researchers and artists with an environment to promote, broadcast and share work specifically created for experiencing in the digital realm.

The platform was created by Steve Ansell, Artistic Director at stage@leeds. He said: "The stage@leedsDigital initiative is really still in its infancy but things are moving very quickly. We have already hosted a startling array of student work from films and radio plays to interactive games and animations.

"We will be introducing a curated professional programme and looking at ways in which Digital and terrestrial performance can interact. These are challenging times but we are excited to be developing digital platforms in which artists can create and share their work in new ways."

“As the hugely impressive work of the PCI and Fine Art 'Class of 2020' and their teachers shows, the very act of overcoming the physical barriers to collective, creative endeavour can also be a beacon of resilience and hope.”

Professor Frank Finlay, Executive Dean of Cultural Engagement

Professor Frank Finlay, Dean of Cultural Engagement, said: “The arts play a critical role in society and the lives of individuals.”

“Artists of all kinds are commentators, responding to the world around them, giving voice and form to lived experience. They can provoke thoughts, offer solace, help us understand what our present feels like, and give us an imaginative glimpse of another future.

“As the hugely impressive work of the PCI and Fine Art 'Class of 2020' and their teachers shows, the very act of overcoming the physical barriers to collective, creative endeavour can also be a beacon of resilience and hope.

“We can also see how at a time of extreme social isolation the arts and culture have brought people together from all walks of life during the coronavirus crisis. The online art and writing classes, for example, which our galleries have been running, have had a fantastic response and have made a significant creative contribution to wellbeing.

“Since the lockdown, the Cultural Institute has found imaginative ways of continuing to connect with partners in the arts and culture sector in the city and beyond.”

Further information: 

Top image credit: Victoria Shaw

For additional information please contact Prue Griffiths, University of Leeds Press Office, via p.griffiths@leeds.ac.uk.

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