Champagne was popped. Music was blasted. Friends and family were admiring the talent of the graduating students. The summer Graduate Shows were finally here – only this time in a very different format. With a global pandemic still putting a stop to larger gatherings, this year’s shows took place online.
The annual Graduate Shows at the University of Brighton has been one of our yearly highlights for as long as we have been involved in organising them. Every summer is marked by first the School of Media and Arts Undergraduate Show, followed by the School of Architecture and Design show, and finally rounded up by the Postgraduate Show. Every year we are left in awe of the students’ talent and creativity, but this year they were particularly inspiring. The students have shown extraordinary resilience and creativity, having to produce their final projects in a world under lockdown. Stories have emerged of students turning their bedrooms and gardens into studios, their kitchens into dark rooms, working with whatever was available to finish their exhibition pieces.
“I think we have embraced the new online era of art,” says Laurie Morley, a newly graduated BA(Hons) Photography student, who exhibited her work in this years’ graduate show, “I felt an obvious disappointment not to have a physical show where I can celebrate my achievements with my family, friends and course mates. People worldwide had to come to terms with how corona affected us, and in the grand scheme of things we had it easy, so we all made the most out of it and saw it as an exciting opportunity. 2020 graduates were the first to showcase our work online, and in our favour, it reached a big audience through the power of the internet. Despite the elders of my family finding it impossible to understand the function of a website, it was a great space to see a huge variety of beautiful work, all in one place. Although unconventional, it was enjoyable, and the hard work put in to making it work was certainly worth it.”
The Technical team at the University of Brighton created amazing websites for the online exhibition on which the work of the students was showcased creatively and accompanied by personal artist biographies and links to the student’s socials, making it easy to contact them for potential buyers or employers. The launches of the online exhibition webpages were accompanied by live DJ sets, award shows, and panel openings, followed by an array of online events in the following month. We got to learn about the crafts of the art and media students through guest lectures, student panels, film screenings, Instagram Live events, and much more. Everyone from student to staff to the audience adapted to the challenges of moving celebrations and events online beautifully as also the prize-giving ceremonies had to take place virtually this year. Although very different, this year’s Graduate Shows were still a huge success and, in particular, showed the immense resilience of the University of Brighton students and innovative solutions everyone has had to explore in order to make this year’s shows possible.
From us at Southcoast Conference, we want to say thank you to everyone involved in making these Graduate Shows possible and a massive congratulations to all the graduating students. We are incredibly proud of you and wish you the best of luck with your futures – wherever they may take you!