The most recent ArtSoc exhibition Spectrum chose to tackle the large and controversial topic of diversity within the art world. Hosted in the characterful Aikmans’ Cellar bar, the event displayed a collection of students’ pieces which included a range of photography, mixed media, sketches, prints, and painting. The relaxing atmosphere of the venue accompanied by the mellow background music and low-level chatter created a friendly and welcome setting in which to enjoy the art. The pieces exhibited fulfilled expectations of the theme of Spectrum and artistic diversity in terms of both their varying subject matter and the wide range of artists included in the show.
Perhaps the only criticism of the event can be the society’s choice of venue. The event description stressed the importance of breaking down the idea of art as an ‘exclusive’ space. Although a pleasant and cosy space, the Cellar bar is down a steep flight of stairs and lacks accessibility to anyone who may be differently abled. This limiting of attendees to only those who did not require special access could be argued to contradict the message of inclusivity that exhibition set out to convey.
According to ArtSoc, it has proven difficult for them to find appropriate venues in which to host their events. Many spaces are reluctant to allow them to present pieces on walls due to worries about damage to their building’s interiors. In addition, unlike some of St Andrews more prominent and often seemingly less inclusive events, the Art Society’s exhibitions are often perceived as less financially lucrative, discouraging the owners of potential venues from allowing students to host such events.
So perhaps the Society’s use of the Cellar bar can be viewed less as a digression from the theme of the exhibition but rather as an example of St Andrews need for more creative and accessible spaces for students. In a university where elitism within the student body is an oft-discussed and controversial issue, surely it should be a priority to provide members of our community with venues that promote openness and diversity.