BELFAST School of Art launched its 175-year celebrations at the opening of the current degree shows. 

The School of Art, founded in 1849, is the oldest provider of design education on the island of Ireland as well as the second oldest School of Art. With a legacy spanning 175 years, the school has nurtured generations of artists and designers, fostering creativity, innovation and excellence. Its graduates continue to make significant contributions to the global art and design community, shaping the future of the industry with their unique perspectives and talents. Today it proudly hosts the largest research-active Art and Design faculty in Ireland.

Seven ambassadors have been chosen to represent different subject areas and when the Chancellor of Ulster University, Dr Colin Davidson, asked artist Alice Maher what was so special about studying there she said: "In the middle of a war, philosophy of practice –  that art is a revolutionary practice. It's not a side show and it can save lives." She added that it was really important that artists like Alastair Maclennan showed that "you can live in the middle of a conflict and push back with art".

She went on: "Oliver Jeffers said on his first day of Art College he walked into a lift and someone was upside down, painting themselves green and whipping themselves. He had walked into some performance art and it changed his perceptions about what art actually is."

Product designer Stephen McGilloway spoke about how much of his work revolves around making products designed by computers that actually work and how his key lesson was collaborative spirit. The illustration and animation commercial sector will face particular challenges from artificial intelligence, but unique voices will continue to push through, as the human soul is different from computer generated solutions; as always with creatives, there is a world of possibilities.

Dr Colin Davidson finished with: "I am really looking forward to marking this important anniversary with students, staff, alumni, partners and the local community, as we come together throughout the year to celebrate Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art and the important contribution it continues to make both here in Northern Ireland and on the international arts stage.” 

Over the course of the year, the ambassadors will act as champions for the School of Art and get involved in the BSoA 175 programme from the special, extended 175 Degree shows, running from June 7 to 21, through to the culmination of the celebrations in December.

Degree shows are open for the general public 10am to 5pm daily, so if you or anyone in your extended family is interested in art and design and its many different applications, pay a visit and come away refreshed and open to new possibilities.

To visit the shows and exhibits or to keep up to date with plans to mark the 175th anniversary of the Belfast School of Art, visit