In Praise of Art School Degree Shows


Photo from Dundee University

Fancy gazing upon a larger than life iron rocking horse? Or are Renoir-style photographs of nude people frolicking in nature more your style? You can find both (in the same room, no less) at an art degree show – needless to say, there’s something for everyone.

Having finished another exam period, it’s a nice opportunity to set sights on things going on out with the university world. I, for one, don’t have a burning desire to see the inside of a lecture theatre for a good while: but what to do with this new-found freedom? For many, there are plenty of ideas and the problem is not what to do, it’s how to find the time. However, for those with time to kill, or those wanting to have a look at what can be achieved with creativity, I have a suggestion for you: art school degree shows.

I’m sure those to whom the dreaded dissertation has affected, or will affect in the near future, will agree that there isn’t an overwhelming feeling to look at said dissertation ever again once it’s handed in. Fortunately, you can look instead at all the final work of arts students across Scotland. Luckily for us, we are now coming into the degree show time of year, with the art schools of Scotland showing off their graduates’ work. In fact, there are studies indicating that art has the ability to decrease stress levels, as well as positively impacting mental health. One of these studies gave volunteers the opportunity to admire the beautifully painted ceiling of the Basilica of Vicoforte from less than 20 feet away, and noted a drop in Cortisol levels in the body (a hormone associated with stress) after the experience. So, for those whose minds feel like mush after weeks of revising and exams, it may well be a good thing to get up close and personal with art, whilst it’s on our doorstep.

I was lucky enough to attend the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art Degree Show in Dundee on the 19th of May (opening night), which celebrates the work of their graduating students in all art faculties, from animation to jewellery design, and plenty more besides.  As events go, this is a stunner. Traditionally the first of the Scottish art schools to put on their degree show, this college does not disappoint. The event was an explosion of talent, interest, and beauty. Opening night is a fantastic time to snag some free alcohol, chat with the artists themselves, and generally have a good time celebrating the start of summer. The later days of exhibitions usually allow for a more peaceful exploration of the graduates’ work.

I’ve listed some of the Schools dates below, and there is no need to fret over cost: they are all free!

Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art (Dundee) 19th-28th May

Edinburgh College of Art 3rd-11thJune

Glasgow School of Art 10th-17th June

Gray’s School of Art (part of Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen) 17th– 24th June

So, if you find yourself at a loss for things to do, and fancy a trip to some interesting events across Scotland, I highly recommend spending some time at a degree show or two, wandering through the collections of work, celebrating amazing talent. Who knows, you might even discover your future in a basket of beautiful, highly satirical tarot cards.

Anya Brzeski

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