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News article

Online art exhibition gets huge response from students across the UK 

Published: 28 May 2020

When the UK went into lockdown in the fourth week of March, it brought an abrupt end to studio-based study for creative students. Many artists found themselves at a creative loose end and it became increasingly obvious that traditional degree shows wouldn’t be able to take place physically for the foreseeable future. 

A group of final year students from York St John University decided to do something positive to help themselves and others cope. They set up The Social Distance Art Project (TSDAP), an online platform to share the products of their years of study. 

Fine Art student Jasmine McKnight is one of those behind the project: “We were all so devastated by our time at York St John coming to an abrupt end, and the opportunity to have degree show being taken away. I personally felt a sense of loss and I think setting up TSDAP was a way for us to feel less disappointed about the situation and also provide some positivity for others in the same boat as us.” 

The project has taken off in a way that none of them could have foreseen. In a matter of weeks, they’ve amassed thousands of followers on Instagram and had to take on two student volunteers to help them deal with the sheer volume of submissions. 

Co-founder Natasha Alexander says they have been astounded at the response: “At this point, I don’t think there are many institutions whose students we’ve not had submissions from whether that’s in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland. When we initially set up, we thought we’d predominantly get submissions from our own University and maybe a couple from students we knew personally at other institutions. As it happens, it’s turned out to be a much wider thing and it’s absolutely amazing.  

The Social Distance Art Project team now hope that something lasting will come out of this, and hope to one day have a physical exhibition and printed publication of all the work that’s been submitted by 2020 graduates. 

The third member of the team, Alex Appleby says they are delighted to have brought so many students together: “Due to most degree shows being cancelled students are missing out on important aspects of their ongoing projects, such as curating, marketing, making, networking etc - The Social Distance Art Project aims to provide a platform for these students to showcase their work and connect with one another from across the UK. Our project has had such an overwhelming amount of positive response. I don’t think any of us expected this to be such a fast growing, successful project, however we are all so grateful that we have had such a vast amount of submissions and enquiries. We are hopeful that in the future we will be able to curate a physical exhibition to bring together student that otherwise may not have met / exhibited together. 

York St John University's Associate Head: Fine Art Helen Turner said: “We love the initiative that our students have shown in setting up this online project so quickly and their commitment to curating it to a professional standard.  The fact that they are giving their time to connect students from institutions across the UK whilst also completing their own final degree studies shows a huge generosity of spiritWe are very proud." 

Next month York St John University students will showcase their work online in the Virtual Art and Design Degree Show 2020Students from nine disciplines will join this unique digital celebration of their work and their time at York St John. From Wednesday 3 June audiences can view highlights from Animation, Fine Art, Furniture Design, Games Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interior Design, Photography and Product Design. Winners of Industry and University Awards for 2020 will also be announced. 


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