We had a great time at this highly anticipated “immersive art exhibit” put up by On the Rocks, St Andrews’s student run arts festival.
As a third year, I like to think I have a better understanding of the time and effort it takes to plan an event in St Andrews, and the first semester event for On the Rocks, St Andrews’s student-run arts festival (interestingly, the largest student run arts festival in Scotland) is a large undertaking. The event has to set the tone for the festival, and generate enough interest in the festival’s committee, work, and brand to lead into next semester.
The five pound ticket entitled the payee to two hours in the exhibit. This likely was an attempt to make sure there was a steady, but not overwhelming flow in a limited space. A variety of workshops were scheduled to run through the 12-8 timeslot, so ticket holders could plan what time they wanted to go based on what was available.
Advertised as an immersive art exhibit and installation experience, it certainly differentiated itself from the typical shows or showcases that have served as On the Rocks’s first semester events in the past. Expanding the medium from Theatre to “the arts”allowed a wider crowd to hopefully be interested in what the event- and largely, the festival- have to offer.
I suppose my largest trepidation going into this event was that I wasn’t sure how well an immersive art exhibition would lend itself to the top floor of the Union. I was greeted at the top of a flight of stairs and given a brief explanation of the layout of the event. There was some sort of scavenger hunt, I had free reign of the top floor, and there was tea and coffee in the Beacon.
I passed through rows of origami birds, the one main decorative element of the event as far as I could see. These were a unique way to transform the space available and definitely complimented the aesthetic of the marketing scheme from On the Rocks so far. Each room on the top floor seemed devoted to a medium, going by the labelling and the interior. I’d say that while this organisation worked well, as did having free reign of the space, it would have been more interesting and on theme for the artist or someone contributory to be in the space to talk about the work. While the broad theme “Life in St Andrews” seemed to permeate most of the pieces, it would have been more personal and interesting to hear a bit more about artistic process, especially considering this was a showcase turned exhibit.
I was sure to check out the workshop of the hour- in my case, Persian Calligraphy. I love Persian Calligraphy, so this was a fortuitous bonus, and the workshop was friendly, well attended, and well run. I will say that due to the hour-by-hour nature of these workshops, the Persian Society seemed constrained by time, as they had to set up and take down their workshop very quickly. This could have been avoided by spacing the timeslots, I suspect, and being clearer to guests about these time constraints as several guests were so enjoying the workshop they seemed more than happy to loiter.
Towards the end of my afternoon, I went to the Beacon to look for some free tea. While the Beacon seemed decorated and had a tranquil atmosphere, it was relatively silent, and there wasn’t anyone on committee in my immediate line of sight to represent On the Rocks. There might have been someone in the corner, but I was unsure as to whether I was meant to really poke around the Beacon, which otherwise seemed uninhabited.
Those I spoke to on committee seemed welcoming, keen to put on a good event, but they were often hard to find. As an event that sets the tone for the festival in general, it would have been better to have an approachable committee consistently on hand. This would have made navigating the exhibit easier.
Overall, I thought the committee were dedicated to showing everyone a good time. They were friendly and the pieces showcased in the event were beautiful. The event showcased some creative talent that otherwise might have gone unnoticed in St Andrews, and set a different stage for On the Rocks this year. Though detail oriented, it could have benefited from slightly more organization and continuity but the event certainly generated interest in the festival, which I look forward to in the next semester.