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Art and Social Practice Module - Shetland College

Shetland College

Roxane Permar has been working internationally in public art and socially engaged practice for over 20 years. Currently based in Shetland, she recognised that some artists at undergraduate and graduate levels could benefit from building their skills in and understanding of delivering quality in participatory practices, so devised this project which could deliver those goals in a virtual learning environment.

Devising the module 

The Art and Social Practice Module she devised was supported by ArtWorks Scotland and delivered through Shetland College UHI running for a semester from September 2013.

The course attracted undergraduates and graduate students who were as diverse in age and experience as they were geographically. Based across the Highlands and Islands, this diversity was welcomed but threw up technical challenges in delivering the course effectively.

Utilising technology 

The existing online platforms for discussion amongst Roxane and her students was found to be unsuitable, but, ever versatile and resourceful, the students used existing social media to create a closed group where they could discuss issues and share experiences in an environment which felt safe and where they could freely discuss their triumphs and challenges.

Students were required to create a reflective journal which became a web blog, as well as to undertake practical exercises from the outset, involving getting people together, thinking about context and provoking and managing discussion – much of which happened online and was fed back to the group.

A highlight of the project to date has been the Virtual Symposium. This event used video conferencing technology to bring together nearly 100 students, artists and lecturers from three UK universities and a number of Highland and Island bases, as well as incorporating speakers from New York and Aberdeenshire.

It was a fantastic experience to get in touch with such a wide range of students and organisations. The first time I have experienced a virtual conference and I think we should have them more often. Great to see the projects being developed, and glad to be able to share my own practice and experience with other participants.- Famina Bi, an MA student from the School of Art at Birmingham City University

Inclusion of renowned international artist Pablo Helguera in the virtual symposium provided profile and credibility for the module Roxane now hopes to extend it to include more fine art students and continue working to overcome some of the administrative, organisational and technological issues encountered first time round.

You can read more of Roxanne’s papers regarding arts and social practice here.