Twenty-eight students and recent graduates from seven art and design schools across Scotland have been selected by Hospitalfield in Arbroath, for the Scotland + Venice Learning Programme.

The programme includes a period of training, mentoring, support and work experience during Scotland’s presentation at the 56th Venice Biennale, which takes place from 9 May-22 November 2015.

Last year, Hospitalfield was chosen to curate Scotland’s 2015 Venice pavilion with a new commission of work by artist Graham Fagen at the Palazzo Fontana. It is here that the programme participants will greet visitors to the exhibition while learning more about what Stephanie Pia of Glasgow School of Art describes as “the intricacies and mechanisms of helping Fagen to fully realise his work.”

She adds: “To be working at the Biennale is an incredible opportunity to meet and work with peers from other Scottish art schools.”

A key addition to the programme this year is ‘The Loop’, which provides an opportunity for the students to produce a collaborative project to share their experience in Venice and inspire other art and design students across Scotland.

“To spend a month living and working in Venice is an experience that I am sure we all wish we had when we were at college,” says Lucy Byatt, director of Hospitalfield.

“It has been a hugely rewarding experience to meet so many astonishing young people with so much potential and I am very much look forward to working with them all.”

Learning and growing

Since it was initiated in 2009, the learning programme has evolved into an opportunity to support the development of students and young artists across Scotland.

Launched around Dundee Contemporary Art’s curation of Martin Boyce’s exhibition for the 53rd Biennale, in that first year students were selected from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (DJCAD), part of the University of Dundee.

The programme has since developed partnerships with Edinburgh College of Art, Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, Glasgow School of Art and City of Glasgow College. For 2015 the programme now also includes students from Dundee and Angus College (Abroath and Dundee campuses) and Moray School of Art, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands in Elgin.

“It offers a unique opportunity for our students to acquire and share key professional skills,” says Gina Wall, curriculum leader at Moray.

This aspect of the programme is something acknowledged by Gray’s painting student Craig Lee. “The vast and diverse nature of the whole experience will develop me as an artist and as an individual,” he believes. “It will allow me to bring skills back to Scotland that only this type of opportunity could provide.”

Residential weekend

The programme begins in March with an intense residential learning weekend at Hospitalfield. Formerly the 19th century home of artist Patrick Allan-Fraser, the organisation – now regularly funded by Creative Scotland for the 2015-18 period – is no stranger to supporting graduates.

As well as an annual residency programme, it has also hosted graduates who take part in Edinburgh gallery Collective’s Satellites Programme (previously New Work Scotland).

For the Biennale, selected students will be joined by 2013 and 2014 participants of Hostpitalfield’s graduate residency programme, including Glasgow School of Art graduate and a-n graduate interviewee Nick Thomas. Other artists from the residencies are Lydia Brownlee, Emma Ewan, Jamie Kane, Ewan Murray, Jess Ramm and Alison Scott.

Participating students in the 2015 programme are: Jo McInnes, Sarah Scanlan and Holly Smith (City of Glasgow College); Kieran Milne, Lise Olsen and Tamara Richardson (DJCAD); Kinga Elliott, Arran Storey and Alice Taylor (Dundee and Angus College); Anna Danielewicz, Troy Holmes and Hannah Ustun (Edinburgh College of Art); Polly Johnston, Robert Mills and Stefano Pia (Glasgow School of Art); Skaiste Klaniute, Craig Lee and Jenni Murison (Gray’s School of Art); and Julija Astasonoka, Hester Grant and Amanda Lightbody (Moray School of Art).