Moray students selected for Italian opportunity

Three Moray School of Art students have been selected to take part in the 2015 Scotland + Venice learning programme. The initiative provides young art school students and recent graduates opportunities to develop their skills and make contacts at La Biennale di Venezia - the largest art exhibition in the world.

The students, Julija Astasonoka (25) from Latvia, now living in Elgin, Hester Grant (20) from Inverness and Amanda Lightbody (22) from Stonehaven, who are studying for a BA (Hons) in fine art with the University of the Highlands and Islands, have each been given the opportunity to spend a month at the Venice event between May and September. They are part of a team of 28 Scottish students and graduates who are overseeing the daily set up of an exhibition by the Scottish artist Graham Fagen and providing visitors with information about the artist and his work. This is the first time the Scotland + Venice learning programme has hosted University of the Highlands and Islands students.

Julija Astasonoka was one of the first students to work at the exhibition. Speaking from Italy, she said: “Venice is great! It is all going very well - we have fantastic feedback and attendance. For the short period of time, we have seen so many exhibitions and museums and also went to Verona. This whole experience has opened my eyes to the diverse and fascinating nature of international contemporary artwork and is one that will continue to greatly influence my present and future work.”

Dr Gina Wall, curriculum leader at Moray School of Art, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Hospitalfield Arts, curators of Fagen’s exhibition, to select students for this ambitious learning programme. It’s a privilege to be invited to participate and I hope our relationship grows ever stronger as we engage in future projects. The Scotland + Venice learning programme is a wonderful opportunity for our students to acquire professional skills which are highly relevant to their chosen field. Students are at the heart of what we do and we want to support them to achieve as much as they can.”

The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust is providing support to Amanda Lightbody and Hester Grant to take part in the learning programme. Amanda travelled out on 1 June and Hester will go at the start of September. Founded by the artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), the Trust aims to support to young people and other individuals to fulfil their potential in the visual arts by providing grants, bursaries and scholarships through selected colleges and universities.

Geoffrey Bertram, chair of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust, said: “This is a great opportunity for the students to learn what it takes to exhibit at such a major international event and how to make it a success. Such opportunities are rare.”