By Hayley Crandall
In the age of social distancing rules and disease prevention guidelines, many organizations have been exploring the digital space as a means of holding events. Colleges certainly have not been an exception to these adventures.
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) is holding its 2020 senior exhibition totally online this year utilizing digital resources like Google Sites.
The exhibition, which usually takes place at MIAD galleries and has been known to pull in up to 7,000 attendees, features work for seniors’ thesis projects. The works correlate with the students’ declared major which can vary from communication design to interior architecture.
Artwork topics can range as well with some showing company product ideas while other comment on social issues. Many students look at their own world and respond, according to MIAD Professor and Chair of 4D/2D Design Dale Shidler.
“For a fine artist it may be focusing on like a big metal sculpture,” said Shidler. “For someone in communication design, they may do a bunch of research on a company and develop an app. It’s really varied in terms of what happens, but each of the seniors creates an exhibition and shows that work.”
The virtual exhibition is broken up by many Google Sites, according to Shidler. Viewers start off by seeing all projects for a major and can click through to get to specific student’s project. From the student’s personal website, viewers get to know them through “about” pages and their portfolio, which really helps drive home the goal of the exhibition, according to Shidler.
“It’s a great professional opportunity for our graduating seniors to get their work in front of professionals, people who collect art, gallery owners, et cetera,” said Shidler.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the school to get creative with how it would give the class of 2020 the proper recognition for their thesis projects.
“We weren’t going to be able to do it the traditional way. We had to find new ways, so we decided to go online with it,” said Shidler. “That’s the thing COVID has done – we’re doing things we never thought we’d be doing.”
The school also features seniors on its YouTube channel as a way to give them a platform to discuss their work, much like they would have done in-person.
MIAD is working to spread more awareness about the exhibit through advertising and its sponsorship by BMO Harris Bank, according to Shidler.
“We’re just really trying to get this in front of everyone,” said Shidler.
Graduation at MIAD has been postponed until October, and the school hopes to show off the works at the graduation, according to Shidler.
Despite the fast-changing circumstances, students quickly adapted to the new format, something which Shidler was very impressed by.
“We are just so proud they were able to make that shift because it’s such a big deal,” said Shidler. “They’re at school for four years and they see every other exhibit before the one they’re going to do, but they were so good about shifting gears.”
Links for viewing all senior thesis projects can be found at MIAD’s website, https://www.miad.edu/. Works come from over 130 students and is available into late fall.