Dawson College art students, stuck at home for graduation, create grand virtual vernissage

Art students at Dawson College spend their three years of CEGEP working towards one night: a big vernissage for the graduating class.

Like most people this spring, they’ve had a disappointment—the art show isn’t possible this year.

But unlike most people, instead of giving up they created a replacement so elaborate that only artists would, or could, make it.

They’ve made a 3D video game that mimics the Dawson campus, including a grand hall, a virtual bartender, and of course, the students’ art exhibits. 

Alumni helped create the game, which allows participants to interact with each other, chatting and clinking wine glasses, in a manner of speaking.

"We did the test yesterday and it was beautiful,” said illustration student Anna Richard. “Our artwork is on display, there's a 1920s theme, music playing, and it really feels like you're there in person despite the distance separating us."

Richard finished her semester studying online, but she says now she’s as excited about the digital vernissage as she would be about the real thing.

It wasn’t an option to completely let the event go, says one professor.

“They were devastated, and so was I,” said Pauline Fresco, the coordinator of the school’s illustration program.

But as plans moved along, she realized the game was going to be something to remember all on its own.

"We're going to do something fun, we're going to do something innovative, we're going to do something creative,” she said. “It's going to blow your mind."

A Dawson graduate said that compared to the normal vernissages, the virtual one is even probably going to bring some concrete benefits.

"In some ways it has some improvements over a real grad show because people from out of town can come visit the show as well,” said Nick Ladd, who now works at Studio Syro.

“If a recruiter from Vancouver wants to come look for illustration students that they'd like to hire, they can come and join." 

Other departments at Dawson are now getting into the game, aside from the illustration program. Students in interior design, 3D animation, photography and visual arts will all host their own vernissages on the platform.

Anyone, from anywhere in the world, is now invited to attend the various art shows, which are scheduled throughout June.

Watch the video above to see how the game unfolds.

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