Art schools take the highway to Europe

November 18, 1994

Three British art schools have launched a ground-breaking interactive multimedia link in collaboration with institutions in France and Spain.

The initiative is part of the European Union's Inter-Arc initiative to promote collaboration between art schools along Europe's Atlantic seaboard from Scotland to Spain.

The British institutions are the schools of art in Cardiff, Glasgow and the University of Plymouth at Exeter. France's effort is spearheaded by the Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Nantes and Spain's by the University of Vigo in Galicia.

John Drummond, at Cardiff art school, part of Cardiff Institute of Higher Education, says that the Pounds 70,000 programme will allow postgraduate and undergraduate artists and designers to work in a creative environment using the information superhighway. The initiative features a software package called Timbuktu that will link the colleges' computers.

Mr Drummond said: "This means that the students and staff can sit at a computer watching someone hundreds of miles away moving their cursor around, opening files and working collaboratively with their programmes."

The programme's director, Georges-Albert Kisfaludi of Nantes, says this will enable participating institutions to undertake joint projects. For example, fine art students in Cardiff are illustrating texts prepared by Exeter's publishing department and students from Nantes and Vigo are developing a virtual reality guide to a museum at Cuenca in Spain.

Virtual reality is Vigo University's speciality and it is keen to illustrate that this new technology can be used to depict age-old traditions.

As a result, staff and students are creating a virtual reality confessional, after researching the history of how Spanish congregations interact with their priests.

For Charles Sanderson, a lecturer at Glasgow, the technology will enable students to show their work without having to resort to the expense of hiring galleries.

He says: "After their work has been digitalised onto the system, it can be seen by anyone on the network. I'm sure that it will change the way people present and sell art. Viewers will be able to select what they like via the computer, and then buy it from the artist."

The system can also act as a electronic CV, helping students to get jobs on graduation as employers can see their work on screen.

By introducing the technology to Europe's art students, the participants are confident that they can develop virtual reality art galleries and be able to examine paintings of old masters without moving from their desks. They will also be able to add their own works to an international archive.

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