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Study event review: OCA Europe - The Open College of the Arts
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Study event review: OCA Europe

Virtual Making Day – 15 Feb 2020

The Regional Europe group organised a virtual meeting day where eleven students across the world worked together under guidance of an OCA tutor. Here is some feedback on the event, through the eyes of the main organiser, an attendee and the tutor.

Main organiser: Stefan Schaffeld

After our last successful virtual making day with Fine Art programme leader Caroline Wright that inspired many participants (Wright, 2019) with the wish to repeat, we as Regional Group Europe decided to organize another one. Sharing a space as distant learners, to come together, and to feel connected became such a relevant experience. Other virtual study events, e.g. virtual critique sessions or tutor and student talks, last normally for 2-2.5 hours. A virtual making day is a full working day (10am-4pm CET) on a Saturday and certainly is a great commitment for all participants.

We organized our virtual event through Zoom, a more suitable virtual meeting platform compared to e.g. google systems. It allows more students to join who do not have a very good internet connection at their home. As an interactive and shared virtual meeting space it allows participants to connect and engage through audio, video, chat and gestures similar to emojis. A great option is the possibility of breakout rooms, where participants are split into smaller groups virtually, to have a deeper and direct engagement, just to ‘come back’ after some time to the main room with all.

This time we had the honour to have drawing and painting tutor Bryan Eccleshall on board. He suggested the fantastic theme of ‘Cross Contamination’ – to experiment, to share, to borrow and to build on ideas from others. 

For roughly the past year, we have organised virtual events, and the feedback from the attendees is that they have been very inspiring and engaging.

Image: Stefan Schaffeld
Student: Kym Walker

What a fab experience! As an attendee at the Virtual Making Day, it felt anything but ‘virtual’: was actual, real, in-the-moment, tangible, hands on, was a fertile workspace.

Tutor Bryan’s invitation to ‘make work not art’ were magic words conjuring productivity, exchange of ideas, sparky thoughts. Bryan was a superb anchoring presence throughout the day, providing pointers, relevant artists for research, meaty food-for-thought, gems of wisdom. I loved the openness, seeing other students in their workplaces, students checking in, uniting for discussion then going away to make work.  There was a lovely flow to this – no pressure or self-consciousness. I got out my tubs of mud and river water and immediately got ‘down and dirty’! I found the multi-discipline element – photography, design, painting, textiles rich and stimulating. It was an opportunity to view my work from different perspectives thanks to the totally generous suggestions, comments, ideas from other students. A liberating process which has already given me fresh pointers particularly with regard to my Parallel Project.

Images Kym Walker

Dividing into groups added a nice structure. Four of us established common ground early on (water/shadow/layers). We decided on a ‘holding title’ of ‘Liminal Spaces’ and chose individual key words: Inger: Extreme Ice; Karen: Shadow/Masks; Sonia: Water/Layers; myself: Mud/Water. This facilitated working individually for forty minutes – swiftly and without pressure we all made and showed our work. It was freeing and fun!  There is something comforting about seeing other students engaged with their work. It gives a sense of connection which is an important if not crucial experience for distance learners.

It was exciting sharing the day with students world-wide: from Dubai, Chile, Romania, Munich, Glasgow, Devon… Count me in please on the next ‘Virtually Real ‘Day’!

Tutor: Bryan Eccleshall

This was my first experience of an interactive online work and I was impressed by how smoothly it went, aside from one technical problem that I caused. Everyone managed to get online easily, and the natural dynamics of conversation seemed to work. Six hours of online creative interaction might seem daunting, but in truth it flew by. 

Screenshot of event – Bryan Eccleshall.

I was keen for participants to share and steal ideas from one another. That sort of generosity isn’t always easy to achieve, but I was delighted with how honest, open, and supportive the participants were. Advice was sought and given and lots of leads for further research were added to the shared Padlet resource. Seeing students from different disciplines – photography, sculpture, graphic design, painting, were all represented – and study levels was heartening and reinforced my belief that ideas are generated through doing and sharing rather than being dreamt up from nothing. 

Finally, I’d like to thank the group for inviting me to take part in this session. I look forward to similar events in the future and would encourage all students and tutors to give the format a go.

If you would like further information on the Region Europe activities, please look at the OCA discussion forum


Wright, C. (2019) Study event review: Virtual studio day, At: https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/fine-art/study-event-review-virtual-studio-day/ (Accessed on 31 Oct 2019).

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Posted by author: Peter Hungerford
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