Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2023
School of Digital Arts (SODA)
10th June 2023 – 21st June 2023
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We may know Manchester School of Art as the striking glass cube that is its current home in the Benzie Building, but the School has been an integral part of the city’s culture since 1838. Initially established as the Manchester School of Design, it was first housed in the basement of the Royal Manchester Institution on Mosley Street (the current site of Manchester Art Gallery), where it provided design training to the manufacturing industry. It is part of Manchester Metropolitan University and actually the second oldest design school in the country.
The institution’s long history is not the only reason it is so well embedded into the local cultural landscape – its forward-thinking approach started early on in the context of the times when the School opened its doors to female students in 1880. While male and female students were still segregated at that point, it did provide higher education to women. In fact, artist and activist Sylvia Pankhurst was one of its more prolific students, winning many prizes for the work she created while studying at the Manchester College of Art at the beginning of the 20th century.
Every summer, the School opens their doors to the public to celebrate the graduating students’ achievements in the annual Degree Show. The display is both a chance for the student’s friends and families to see their hard work realised in a professional exhibition format, as well as an opportunity to make connections that can help the students to continue their creative practice outside of academia. Degree shows are an integral part of the art school experience and the crowning moment that students work towards throughout their last year of study.
A lot of ideas, collaboration and decision-making is required to organise an event of this scale, from choosing how to display the work to the show’s visual identity. This year’s degree show title is Next Message, designed and brought to life by Jake Beddow (Graphic Design and Art Direction, 2003-06). In Beddow’s own words: “it was important to land on a concept that felt both personally significant and something that students could make completely their own.” The concept is based on the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, a 20th-century philosopher who predicted the existence of a ‘Global Village’ in which information is continually shared. McLuhan coined the term ‘The Media is the Message’ leading to the title of ‘Next Message’ which became the underpinning motif for the degree show.
The artist highlights the importance of instilling a sense of confidence in the next generation of graduates: “Next Message is also a direct statement to the 2023 Manchester School of Art graduates; they now have an opportunity to impact the creative landscape, their global village – an assertion that they should feel confident in moving onto the next step in their creative practice, be that post-graduate study or professional work.”
The Degree Show will span all of the disciplines taught at the School of Art, providing a thought-provoking multimedia display, and showcasing a cross-section of emerging local talent.
As the Manchester School of Art celebrates its 185th anniversary, it continues to push creative boundaries to equip its graduates with the courage and initiative necessary to thrive in their chosen arts disciplines. Its new site in the Benzie Building which opened in 2013, was designed with collaboration in mind. The School is divided into four departments with courses ranging from fine art, art history, graphic design and fashion to architecture, digital arts and more. The building’s openness allows for free movement and dialogue between the different disciplines, which is a key aspect of art education that not all art schools can take as much pride in.
David Grimshaw, Deputy Head of Design describes this openness in practice: “I’m always really inspired by the thinking that connects so much our students work. They are really conscious of not only of the opportunity to be personally creative, but are also very aware of wider social, environmental and economic issues, and their responsibilities within these.”
This year’s graduates can look to the School’s long list of incredibly successful past alumni as inspiration for what can lie ahead. Painter L.S. Lowry is perhaps the best-known figure who attended the school and whose name can now be found all over Manchester. Swinging Sixties fashion designer, and a friend of David Hockney, Ossie Clark also attended the school before embarking on an illustrious career in design. More recent graduates include celebrated photographer Martin Parr, whose work has featured in around 80 exhibitions worldwide and contemporary artist Audrey Albert who graduated in 2018 and was selected as a Creative Fellow for MIF21.
Next Message will be open to the public from 10–21 Jun.