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Q&A2 Rachel Bradley, curator, New Art West Midlands What are you looking for in a degree show? Work that is making a contribution to current thinking and debates in contemporary art and the wider world. I go to a number of degree shows every year – not just in the West Midlands – to gauge which graduates I hope will apply for the New Art West Midlands exhibitions (which I’ve organised since 2013) but also to see what’s coming through. How important are degree shows to the selection process for New Art West Midlands? They’re vital in that the majority of applications received in the competition profile the degree show works as the most recent produced. When the selection process takes place – this year the selectors were Sonia Boyce, John Stezaker and Katharine Stout – I’m able to advise more fully on what the work is like if I’ve seen it ‘in the flesh’.

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Assemble at Turner Prize 2015 exhibition, Tramway, Glasgow. Photo: Keith Hunter Photography

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Visitors viewing works at mima

What do you think students get out of degree shows? In the organisation of degree shows there is a real opportunity for graduates to get experience of tackling challenges of display and engaging in the negotiations that are involved in grouptype exhibitions. The shows provide an opportunity to think about audience and who’ll be seeing the work. What makes a good degree show? In my opinion the best degree shows have work in them that demonstrates an awareness of art history and developments in the field of contemporary art. What do you like most about degree shows? I really enjoy seeing what’s coming through and talking to the graduating students about their work if they are around. I also buy work sometimes, but I’m running out of wall space! It would be good if shows were displayed for a little longer though – so I could get around more of them.

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“[It’s the same] if you look at Black Mountain College or Dartington or the settlement movement. What was interesting about the post-war British art school, for example, was that it was a place where those people who didn’t go down the normal routes would end up. And the irreverence and post-avant-gardism of the art school system created a whole generation of people who had a huge impact on society in very broad ways.”

This year’s New Art West Midlands exhibition continues until 15 May. www.newartwm.org

Of course Hudson isn’t the only person in the visual arts who has misgivings about the shifting sands of art school education in the UK. From student protests about the 25

a-n Degree Shows Guide 2016  
a-n Degree Shows Guide 2016  

2016 Degree shows publication highlighting the best graduate art and design shows around the UK, with commentary and insight from artists, c...

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