Five common degree show mistakes

Five common degree show mistakes

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 18/06/15

Degree show season is in full swing. Your university career may be nearly done but there’s still time to make sure you get the most out of your final exhibition...

1. Weak presentation

This is your moment. The glorious, glittering pinnacle of one, two, maybe three years of creative struggle. So don’t just plonk your work up on the wall with some aged blue tac you found down the back of a cupboard. Take a considered, aesthetically-minded approach to curating the space. Think about ways to hang, frame (or not), paint the walls, light, arrange your show. All that shizzle.

Don’t just assume your viewer will “get” your projects without context. Help them by supplying some background information: titles, captions, materials, dates. Make sure any accompanying text is typo-free and nicely displayed. No greasy fingerprints!

2. Lack of promotion

Your university or college might have a PR bod who sends out information through their networks. This is great. But it’s no reason to stop you from also getting the word out yourself. Get together with your colleagues and set up a Tumblr, Facebook page, Instagram. Send invites out to media, galleries and other relevant people. Read our guides to getting media coverage, writing a press release, being interviewed by journalists.

Make sure that visitors to the exhibition can easily find your website and contact details. Print business cards or postcards with images of your work on them - that will help to jog people’s memories - and leave a neat pile of them somewhere obvious. You never know who might pick one up and where it might lead.

3. Going AWOL at the private view

Er hello. Where have you got to? Over in the corner funneling free wine down your gullet? You can drink later. Now is the time for schmoozing. Don’t feel chained to your art but do make an effort to hang out in the vicinity, looking smiley and approachable. If people like what they see, they’ll want to know more about it so be ready to answer their questions. Get your chat down by practising it on your friends - arty and non-arty - beforehand. Go easy on the theory. There’s nothing less elegant than a perfectly good project clumsily squeezed into an ill-fitting conceptual framework.

4. Mispricing your work

You’re not Picasso. You may be one day but for now you’re an artist at the very start of your career so you should price your work accordingly. How exactly to do this is tricky because it’s kind of subjective. There’s some helpful advice about pricing on IdeasTap and on the Royal College of Art website. You can also mine your tutors for ideas and check out what your peers are doing on Degree Art, an online gallery that specialises in student artwork. Remember, if you’re a photographer or graphic artist, printing your work in an open or limited edition will affect its value.

5. Having a melt down

Stress levels are high at this time of year. The final degree show is important but it’s not so important that it’s worth having a nervous break down or attacking your bestie with a glue gun or nailing your thumb to the wall over. Eat. Sleep. Look after yourself. And, most of all, have fun.


Are you mid-way through your degree show? How’s it going? Let us know in a comment!

Image by Arnaud DG on a Creative Commons license. 
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