Jody Mulvey, founder of SAD GRADS 2020, introduces the community-building platform she created in the first lockdown and profiles four inspirational graduate projects.

When the UK went into lockdown for the first time in March 2020 I was in my final year studying Fine Art MA (Hons) at Edinburgh College of Art. I had just a week to grab my things from my studio and say goodbye to the life in Edinburgh that I had loved so dearly. I thought it would only be for a few weeks and packed just enough clothes to last me that long.

With this impending period of isolation came the uncertainty surrounding completing final hand-ins. Slowly but surely, degree shows across the UK were either cancelled or placed online. At the time, it felt as if my world was collapsing – the thing I’d worked towards, this celebration of all I’d managed to achieve through my degree, wasn’t going to happen.

I began speaking to other art students that I knew from across the UK and was reminded that I wasn’t alone – every art student in the UK (and probably the world) was experiencing the same disheartenment, the same panic at the encroaching abyss of graduate life. Something about this overwhelming experience being so universal made me realise that by helping each other, we can get through this together. I wanted to create that sense of unity; to find something positive out of a negative situation. That was why I decided to start SAD GRADS 2020.

SAD GRADS 2020 is a community-building platform, based on Instagram, which aims to support UK-based graduates who had their degree shows cancelled due to COVID-19. I believe that through the creation of communities we can provide critical support to each other and help each other through our struggles. I centred the ethos of SAD GRADS 2020 around this idea and continue to utilise this as a foundation for all of the platform’s outputs.

The platform has been running for a year now, and within that time I’ve showcased the work of over 500 graduates from across the UK. It’s been nominated for two Creative Edinburgh awards for its impact on the arts and I’ve collaborated nationally with organisations such as Creative Lives in Progress. I even published a zine in collaboration with fellow 2020 graduate, Ruben Buffery, to showcase the work of 102 contributors from a vast range of specialisms across the UK. Together we raised just shy of £1,000 for charity. Other projects such as a series of live talks, “Just Ask… with Sad Grads,” funded by YoungScot in partnership with Creative Scotland, with guests Alec Dudson (Director of Intern), Zarina Muhammad (The White Pube), Ellie Pennick (Director of Guts Gallery) and Sarra Wild (OH141 and Jupiter Rising Festival), have sought to give advice to early-career artists. The platform has continued to provide vital support to 2020 graduates throughout this difficult year.

I look back on the last 12 months, exhausted, but with overwhelming sense of pride to have been a part of this graduating cohort. The following interviews with Ben Hall and Jay Darlington, Jiggle N Juice, Gatekeeper Magazine, and All Mouth gallery show the resilience of the 2020 graduates. All have created projects that have enabled their own creativity and that of their peers to thrive, despite the lack of normal exhibition opportunities. More than this, these projects have displayed the importance of creative communities that foster caring relationships, within an art world which can often be individualistic in its mentality.

Follow SAD GRADS 2020 on Instagram: @sadgrads2020

1. SAD GRADS 2020 zines.
2. SAD GRADS 2020 logo.