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Art Under Attack

“I honestly feel let down by the University”

A final year Fine Art student's response to the news that her University is cancelling, as opposed to postponing, the end of year art show that students spend years preparing for.

Understandably these are unforeseen circumstances that have been extremely difficult to work around for all Universities. Ulster University Art students, however, feel like they've been deprived of an essential part of their degree whilst the University has taken measures to ensure most other courses can be finished online and remain as unaffected as possible by the current health crisis.

The School of Art, in an email sent to students, described their decision as “unprecedented” which is the perfect word to describe this decision. There has never been no degree show for art students - it is a great way to showcase to family, friends and potential business connections or customers their talent and hard work. Not to mention the fact that for some courses this event was originally meant to be worth 80% of their degree.

Zoe, another Fine Art student in final year comments that the degree show “has always been a significant event which I have always dreamed about…” She continues on to talk about how the decision to not have a degree show has raised further concerns about life after her degree; “I'm very anxious about the idea of not having a degree show, as I know how much the event can help launch us as emerging artists, into our professional artistic career.”

The students have organised their own petition which has been circulating social media to try and get a postponed degree show. In the comment section of the petition, one person mentioned how art is relevant even in these uncertain times; “I can't help think of the rainbows being produced by very young children in these bleak times. Art must be learnt and practised as the student wishes it to be and shared as widely as possible.”

In the petition the students also respectfully acknowledge their lecturers and tutors; “We would like to acknowledge at this point our appreciation for our tutors. We know they care about our well-being and have tried to support us as best they can at this difficult time.”

Eoin, a final year animation student describes the cancellation as “kinda devastating” as “the degree show is a really big deal for me and for a lot of people. It's a time when we get to celebrate each other for our achievements, the hard work we put in and the sacrifices we all made on this journey.”

He also went on to mention that the “many universities including mine are assuring students that they are planning a range of alternative celebrations when the crisis has eased.” These alternative celebrations include a separate exhibition towards the end of the year. Whilst this is not 100% guaranteed it at least gives the students a potential opportunity to showcase their work to the Northern Irish ‘Art scene’.

The only catch with this, if this does actually come into being, is that it won't be related to their degree show - which has been a driving factor to students to finish their artworks, many of which have had to be abandoned at the university campus as they were simply too large or impractical to take home to work on. Even students who have been able to bring work home are struggling to complete it as they have been thrown into a completely different work environment. As part of their degree, art students were granted access to a studio space - to try and recreate this at home is simply not practical for some students.

Aoife, another Fine Art student has found being at home difficult to work in, “I’m now living at home with three younger siblings who are in the process of being home schooled. Trying to find the time, space and mindset to work on my art pieces has been extremely difficult” She also feels that working in her campus studio helped her creatively, “we would often use criticism and comments from our fellow students who were working in the same environment with us - we only had a few hours a week in face-to-face contact with our tutors where as I would have maybe spent around forty hours a week in my studio working alongside my peers.” As Albert Einstein said “creativity is contagious” and this applies to the students.

She feels that she will have lost the motivation to work on pieces she had spent months on for her degree show - “Knowing that they simply won't mean the same thing once they're finished has really changed my way of looking at them and whilst I know I will have the chance to finish them at some point the excitement and drive to do so has vanished!”

Art is immersive and the physical aspect of a final year show allowed students to showcase their works, which were created with a specific story or message behind them - art after all is a form of story telling.

The lack of degree show doesn't allow these students to tell or show others their message - and a message is not a message until it is put forth to others, it would be like giving a speech to an empty room.

These students do not view they art as a ‘hobby’, for them it is a vocation which is why they have invested so much time and money into it - the degree show being cancelled is just another kick to the art industry for them. Student Josephine talks about having to fight to get Art the respect it deserves; “As an Art student I have constantly had to fight my corner…fighting for the importance of art and the respect it deserves”

Sign the Petition here


Jordan Doherty is a 21 year old student currently studying for a Masters degree in Journalism after graduating with a Bachelors degree in Journalism and English. She is interested in writing environmental and human interest pieces.

#JordanDoherty #ImaginationInIsolation #Coronavirus

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