This time last year, it felt like it would be 2020’s graduates who would be forever associated with the Covid-19 lockdown and its consequences.

Now, we have a new graduating cohort whose whole final year has been shaped by the pandemic; a year in which mask wearing, Zoom tutorials, and curtailed social freedoms became normal, everyday.

To describe this period as challenging for art students – for art education as a whole – feels inadequate, trite even. It has been an extraordinary year, touched by grief, despair, anger, frustration. For studio-based teaching, the difficulties have been immense. And yet here we are, with degree shows about to happen in one form or another. It feels all the more exciting for being unexpected.

Most importantly – as the Class of 2021 Q&As and features in this guide show – throughout it all, students have been finding ways to make art, with or without their studio spaces. Back yards, gardens and bedrooms have become workshops for both physical and digital work.

Materials and ideas have been adapted, the new reality requiring new approaches. Fantastic, thoughtful, inventive work has been created.

While the main focus of this guide is on providing a snapshot of that work, our Next Steps section also looks to life after graduation. We speak to Joy Labinjo about doing a MA while continuing to develop a successful painting career; Artist Support Pledge founder Matthew Burrows explains how an Instagram hashtag can help artists sell their work; and SAD GRADS showcases projects that are working collaboratively to support new art graduates.

We hope you enjoy this guide. But mostly, we hope you get to enjoy a 2021 degree show – whether physical or online.

The a-n Degree Shows Guide team, May 2021.

More interviews, features and information on the latest developments on degree shows and life after graduation at a-n.co.uk/degree-shows

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