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Alice in Wonderland inspired artwork by Dani Hiatt, a student specialising in photography

Bringing diverse communities together through online exhibitions

Written by Monica Biagioli
Published date 14 July 2020

When we started planning for Origins Creatives 2020, we brought professional curator Monica Biagioli on board to help with the selection and curation process of the exhibition. Whilst the exhibition won't be going ahead as planned, Monica is sharing her knowledge and awareness of curation with us through a series of blog posts. Read all about her thoughts on online and virtual curation - using college online exhibitions and student work as examples of how you can take exhibitions online!

With the online exhibitions and takeovers, we see a celebration of process as well as outcome. In many cases the process of developing an online exhibition became a focal point, a means to gather together in communities of practice to express the essence of their discipline. Creating interactive spaces online to bring the public to the exhibition became a strong feature of many of the shows.

Barnsley College and Barton Perevil College created virtual exhibitions using accessible online platforms such as Artsteps. Canterbury School of Visual Arts at Canterbury College presented their Flat 38 Bedsit exhibition concept. Reigate School of Art’s end-of-the-year show, Neutral Ground Productions, featured interviews with course leaders and exhibition walk-throughs as a means to link the learning space with the outcomes produced.

The role of the college environment and the tutor input is pivotal in the creative development of students, and the limitation of online communication brings that link more palpably to the foreground. Cambridge Regional College’s Out of Isolation exhibition celebrated the students and their work in a website designed by one of their tutors, Andy Wright. For their end of year project, the Level 1 Art & Media students explored the theme of change. In her introduction, Course Leader Scarlett Squire expressed why it is that creative development is so important. It serves as an initiation, allowing students to step out of their comfort zone and grapple with transition and challenges by exploring their own rich imagination. Cambridge Regional College’s Rizing Games is an ongoing development arm of the education environment with strong links to industry that has been mentoring students to develop professional skills.

Abingdon and Witney College hosted a festival of end of year shows. Their Foundation Art and Design exhibition featured a virtual gallery space designed and produced entirely by students. Will Westwood, one of the student designers, wrote “this space is an amalgamation of nearly 500 hours of work; planning, designing, coding and testing.”

Helping students make the transition from education to professional practice became a feature for many programmes. Derby College created an online portfolio space and digital exhibition to showcase students’ skill and talent. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Grace Harper features her film production and video editing skills and presents a showreel of her ongoing film and television production work. Harlow College presented a virtual fashion runway show which featured documentation of their collaboration with Diesel on a live project, including visits to the site and development work produced as part of the industry brief.

Harlow College's Digital Runway

The showcases also provide an opportunity for students to give context to their practice and to demonstrate how creative development helps shape our world view. Ravensbourne’s Locked Down But Not Out exhibition hosted a range of qualifications. Presentations such as Alice Chen’s Unheard and Unseen Female Artists demonstrate the interest students have to explore their identity and experience through the shaping that the arts allow. Toni Grant introduces her piece, A Space For Covid, as follows:

“I have been staying creative by making my work relate to stuff I like and feel interested in. This then motivates me to want to get up and complete work. I've learnt that a lot can be done with minimal resources and that limitations can work in your favour. The whole design process enables you to practice the idea that less is more and in this scenario it really has been!”

The works on show bring to life the importance of art and design to our quality of life. In the case of the last few months, they have proved to be a vital means to respond with clarity and purpose to the challenges set in front of us.

Unheard and Unseen Female Artists, Alice Chen

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