7 June 2024

Global art icons named Belfast School of Art Show ambassadors at the 175th anniversary Degree Show sponsored by Carson McDowell

Leading lights from the world of art, fashion and textile design, illustration and animation came together last night [6 June] at the preview of the anniversary Degree Show supported by Carson McDowell, to champion and celebrate 175 years of the Belfast School of Art (BSoA) and its impact, both locally and globally.

During the event attended by many Carson McDowell clients, business partners, colleagues and friends, seven well-known names and faces from across the creative arts sector, most of whom attended BSoA before carving out celebrated careers, were named as BSoA ambassadors by globally renowned artist and Ulster University Chancellor, Dr Colin Davidson. The ambassadors, pictured above with Neasa Quigley, Senior Partner, are:

  • Award-winning artist, author, and activist, Oliver Jeffers
  • Oscar and BAFTA-nominated animator, illustrator, cartoonist, producer and director, Paul Young, CEO of Carton Saloon
  • Award-winning fashion and embroidery designer, Niamh McCarthy
  • One of Ireland's leading contemporary artists, Alice Maher
  • Celebrated curator and Creative Director of the MAC, Hugh Mulholland
  • Acclaimed product designer, Stephen McGilloway, and
  • Renowned textile artist, Irene MacWilliam.

Speaking at the event, Ulster University Chancellor, Dr Colin Davidson said: “This year, Ulster University's Belfast School of Art reaches 175 years, which is a really significant milestone for us to celebrate. Some of the world’s most prolific artists and designers of the last two centuries have trained at the Belfast School of Art at Ulster University, with Turner prize winners and nominees among its alumni. For me personally, it holds a really special place – its where I started to hone my craft and it really shaped me as an artist – I have so many fond memories of my time studying here.

“So 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.”

The Belfast School of Art, at Ulster University has been at the forefront of innovation and design since 1849. It 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.

Award-winning fashion and embroidery designer, 175 Ambassador and Belfast School of Art Textile Art, Design and Fashion Graduate, Niamh McCarthy said:

“This is a momentous year as the Belfast School of Art celebrates its 175th anniversary. As a 175 Ambassador for this esteemed institution, I feel an incredible sense of pride. I am an alumni of the Belfast School of Art, having graduated from this very course in 2017. During my time here, I specialised in Embroidery, a skill that has profoundly shaped my career. Fast forward five years, I’ve sold over 3,000 jackets worldwide, with 90% of them going to brides in America who want to rock their wedding. There are fantastic opportunities here in Belfast and across Northern Ireland, and it is an immense honour to celebrate 175 years of the Belfast School of Art.”

Leading law firm, Carson McDowell has supported the Ulster University Belfast School of Art Annual Degree Show for over a decade.

Neasa Quigley, Senior Partner at Carson McDowell, commented on the partnership and celebrations:

It is a very exciting year to be associated with the Belfast School of Art, which celebrates being at the forefront of design and the development of young artists since 1849. Both Carson McDowell and Ulster University have deep roots in Belfast, and we are each fully committed to helping our people, clients, stakeholders and communities to thrive. We are very proud to have worked with Ulster University and partnered with the Belfast School of Art Annual Degree Show for over a decade. This collaboration has allowed us to support exceptional artists and creative talent whose groundbreaking ideas, concepts, and expertise bring social and economic benefits to the region as well as making a significant global impact.”

Over the course of the year, the ambassadors will act as champions for the celebrations and get involved in the BSoA 175 programme from a special, extended 175 Degree Shows, running from 7-22 June. 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 https://www.ulster.ac.uk/bsoa

View all the pictures from the event in the video below.