The Hot 100 2014: Glasgow School of Art
Sam De Santis of GSA Students’ Association on the 2014 fire
Within months of the Mackintosh Building fire, the Phoenix Bursary was helping students make work again. Sam De Santis, head of GSA Students’ Association at the time of the blaze, tells us more
I was walking up the steps of the Mackintosh when the fire started. The fire alarm was going off and people started to leave the building. I figured it was a drill and went for a coffee in the Students’ Association. It was maybe ten minutes later when I realised what was happening and how serious the fire was.
Watching it unfold was simply gut wrenching. I know many of the staff and graduates well and being in the middle of such visible distress was extremely difficult. I was head of the Students’ Association at the time so I felt an extra level of responsibility to keep my head and do what was needed of me, but that following week was one of the toughest periods of my life. For the students that lost their work, the fire cost them their vital degree show moment, a chance to showcase the work you’ve developed over the years to galleries, professionals and the public. The Phoenix Bursary, a 15-week period of support, is an opportunity for the artists affected to develop the professional networks they would have received through the degree show experience, and crucially, it enables graduates to continue making work.
The bursary was thought up within 48 hours of the fire. Preliminary documents were drafted and the Scottish Government quickly announced support. In just under 19 weeks, 100 students received individual bursaries. Nearly half the students chose to continue working in Glasgow but others have used it to travel abroad, as far afield as Mongolia. The bursaries supported students to work across four continents, 15 countries and 21 different institutions. It’s remarkable to think what was achieved in less than five months.
The Phoenix Bursary will culminate in an exhibition in March. Follow the project at gsaphoenix.blogspot.co.uk