What about Covid-19? Are societies still going to be putting on events?
In-person activities will be postponed for as long as Oxford is in Tier 3/4. But do not despair!
The good news is that not all art has to be done in-person, and arts have been thriving on the internet in the meantime. There have been art competitions on Facebook recently, with the Industry magazine’s “Boredom” or OxArt’s “Distance” competitions for instance. You can also take part in all the magazines, zines, and graphic design work for societies. The main Oxford newspapers have been going strong, and still need editorial illustration, and you can still pitch to various zines or apply to help a society with graphic design.
OxArt and some colleges have been running some art workshops online, which you could try joining. You could also try organising something online yourself: pictionnaries, draw-alongs, painting sessions are all good fun and can be done remotely.
But I can only draw stick men! What if I want to learn how to draw?
Fear not! Most societies are open to complete beginners. First, think about what it is you want to get better at: is it portraiture, landscapes, painting…? Check facebook and the different societies’ websites to find out if they’re doing a related event.
If the event doesn’t specify that it is for beginners, look out for events with less people, so that the people in charge will be able to give you more of their time, and don’t be afraid to message the organisers to find out if they can help you out, or if they have any beginner-friendly events planned at any point.
I study science/literature/law/literally any subject unrelated to art. Can I still come to events?
Yes, absolutely! Only a very small handful of students actually study fine arts; most active in the art-related societies/magazines study completely unrelated subjects.
What if I’m shy/socially anxious?
Check the scale of the event on facebook, and don’t hesitate to message someone from the committee and ask them about what it’s like if you’re feeling a bit socially anxious. Plenty of events are very relaxed and non judgemental - just do your thing, people will be happy to have you join regardless :)
If you don’t feel like meeting people, you can also just submit your art to magazines (it doesn’t require any face-to-face meeting, just an email, and can help you get your foot out there)
How about socio-politically engaged art? I want my art to be useful to a community
You could help various societies hold art workshops surrounding things that you care about, whether that be calling for political action, making money for a charity, raising awareness of climate change… The LGBTQ+ Society, for instance, have had some art-related events in the past that you can attend or help run if you ask. You could also submit your artwork to one of the Oxford zines mentioned in the guide.
The University also organises various projects which use art as a means of expression: recently, Oxford SU has published the Survivor Anthology, for instance, a digital magazine where survivors of sexual assault can publish their stories in the form of a poem or piece of art. If you would like to start your own project, the SU will provide development and funding support.
I’m more of a History of Art kind of person! What do you recommend?
This guide hasn’t gone into too much detail about History of Art but there are definitely opportunities out there! Your best shot will be to join the Edgar Wind Society and to look out for events at the various museums in Oxford. You can also check the History of Art department for events and lectures you might be able to attend (even if you’re not reading History of Art yourself). Do visit the museums mentioned in the guide if that’s your thing!
What about movies and theatre?
Performance arts in Oxford could be a whole separate guide, seeing the sheer volume of things going on! Check out OUFS and OUDS, and sign up to their newsletters where they send cast calls etc, there’s a very vibrant scene in performing arts, with around a dozen of musical and theatrical productions every term.
What if I want to do life drawing?
Who doesn’t! Here are a few places you can check out for life drawing sessions and lessons;
College life drawing
Sometimes colleges, such as St John’s (as of HT 2020), organize weekly life drawing for very low costs. Make sure to check facebook and ask around. It might be worth it contacting your college’s Arts rep to ask them if something can be put into place for your college (provided there is enough demand)
(price - £2 to 5 pounds on average per 1-2h session)
Ruskin School of Art
The Ruskin School of Art (Oxford’s Art faculty) has weekly drawing classes with a qualified teacher. These have limited space, though, so it can be hard to guarantee a space. That said, they constantly get great reviews, and are fantastic to improve fast.
(price - £48 a term for Oxford students, or around £7 per 3h session)
The Jam factory is a trendy restaurant/arts center near Oxford station. They organise art shows and weekly life-drawing, which might be a little pricier that college or Ruskin life-drawing sessions but are still worth a check https://www.thejamfactoryoxford.com/life-drawing
(price - £7-£10 per 1h30 session)
Where else can I find out about art events?
The best is to subscribe to societies’ newsletters or check out your JCR and look around town for flyers, or to check the websites cited in the guide.
I’m interested in sculpture/experimental art/calligraphy/something you haven’t mentioned! What do you recommend?
As for anything, look around on facebook and other Oxford art websites. And if you still don’t see anything, get into contact with societies and ask them if they are planning to have a related event during term. If nothing is on, you can ask them if they’d like you to organise it, or even better, you can start your own society: just ask around you, on ox uni arts hub or even oxfess if people are interested in being part of a committee. You can also organise it as a college event: most colleges have an arts rep that you could collaborate with.
I have an idea for an event. Who can I ask for funding?
Depends on the idea, but you can always contact your college arts rep: usually colleges get a small arts fund every term that you can use to organise something (a lot of colleges run their life drawing events this way).
If you’re planning on making a movie or a play/musical, contact either OUFF or OUDS respectively.
Oxford SU runs SU Projects, a platform where they help students to bring their ideas to life by providing their expertise, funding and media channels. The Oxford Arts Guide is an SU Project!