The (Degree) Show Must Go On...

In a striking illustration of how Blackpool School of Arts really does teach ‘divergent thinking; practical skills and digital competencies for the future’, ex-student Richard Weston has returned to his creative roots,  25 years after his own graduation, to create an innovative, virtual Degree show for the Blackpool class of 2020.

As the pandemic crisis unfolded, it became clear that the traditional Degree Show would have to be cancelled.

‘The Degree Show is the big moment that everything has been building up to, a chance to showcase your work and to introduce yourself to the creative sector. I’m involved in professional mentoring at the college and I really felt the students’ disappointment’, explains Weston, an award-winning photographer.

‘However, it was instilled in me at Blackpool that innovation and creativity is the key to overcoming hurdles and challenges.’

Weston focussed his attentions on exploring new options. A gallery using VR technology was already under development by college exhibition Co-ordinator, Aaron Tonks. A live version was still some way off, but Weston recognised key elements could be adapted.

Weston and Tonks pooled their resources, knowledge and skills. Taking legacy virtual tour software, and integrating the newer VR technology, the pair have created Vision2020BSOA,  a 3D, online gallery viewable without specialist headsets or software.

It’s providing a platform for students to share curated work from the last three years, showcasing a wide range of creativity, design and style. For many students, it’s the first time that they’ve seen their work in a gallery setting. In going online, they’re also benefitting from the opportunity to speak to an audience reaching far beyond the physical time and space constraints of a traditional exhibition. Only time will tell, but Blackpool may well be leading the way, when planning for the new normal.