It’s been a challenging year at the National Art School, but that hasn’t stopped this year’s cohort of 115 students from making their art and celebrating their graduation with a new exhibition.
NAS Director and CEO Steven Alderton says that the COVID-19 disruptions had a massive effect on the operations of the school, as the school had the almost impossible task of pivoting from an almost entirely practical educational practice into an online format.
“Our teaching staff were incredible the way that they pivoted to zoom… with lectures here and in their homes demonstrating art making techniques, critiquing their work and art history lectures,” Alderton said.
This year’s graduating class were also thankful for NAS’ adaptability and forward thinking to changing the educational practices of the school. Theoretical work was taught in the first half of the year, so that students would not miss practical time when they returned to campus.
Painting student Emily Ebbs spoke with Urban Village at the graduation ceremony and said: “The good thing is that we got to do all theory in isolation, so that it was all finished when we came back.”
New graduate BFA ceramics student Stella Ramage added, “… when it came to crunch time we didn’t have to worry about anything other than our majors.”
Time away from the campus was also seen as a positive, giving the students a better understanding of the world outside of the school and how to make art in an environment without so many resources.
“I think it’s prepared them for life after art school. We have incredible facilities… So that period away from this site enabled them to think of other ways to make art and new ways to create their current practice,” said CEO Steven Alderton
Ebbs agreed: “I feel like it made everyone more adaptable.”
This is NAS’ first school exhibition since the NIRIN show at the Biennale in March, and the excitement about the future among staff and students was clear.
“The roaring twenties happened a decade after the Spanish Flu in 1919 and I see that pattern emerging again,” said Alderton.
“We’re still worried and concerned about the pandemic but I see the energy and these students are so happy that they’ve made the work and they’re about to present it.”
If you missed the BFA Grad Show, The National Art Schools Master of Fine Art exhibition will run from February 12-21 and features the work of 34 Masters students, as they finish their two year postgraduate course. Much like the BFA Grad Show, the MFA Grad Show offers a look into the resilience of the arts industry during difficult times.