NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Tertiary artists: The Next Generation: including a special feature – ‘Next gen’ journalists on ‘next gen’ artists

Tertiary creative arts, and artists, have experienced significant changes over time in their working life. For many, perhaps the greatest change was the move of creative arts into the university sector nearly 30 years ago. Since then we have seen the numbers of students and staff grow, creative art schools form, restructure and even close. We have seen arts curriculum evolve to reflect new developments in technology, cultural expression, audience and student expectations,  and shift to meet funding opportunities and university priorities. And the academic staff that inhabit our schools are changing. Graeme Hugo signalled academia’s demographic changes in 2005 and we are experiencing this personally with every retirement and leaving party that we attend.

Tertiary creative arts, and artists, have experienced significant changes over time in their working life. For many, perhaps the greatest change was the move of creative arts into the university sector nearly 30 years ago. Since then we have seen the numbers of students and staff grow, creative art schools form, restructure and even close. We have seen arts curriculum evolve to reflect new developments in technology, cultural expression, audience and student expectations,  and shift to meet funding opportunities and university priorities. And the academic staff that inhabit our schools are changing. Graeme Hugo signalled academia’s demographic changes in 2005[1] and we are experiencing this personally with every retirement and leaving party that we attend.[2] 

Our newer tertiary arts staff face a working environment that is much changed from the ‘post Dawkins’ world that older staff had to come to grips with but it is still fraught with challenges and uncertainties – and some of the challenges that colleagues grappled with twenty years ago are still in evidence.

In this edition of NiTRO we ‘hand over’ to the next generation of teachers, researchers, students and graduates who inhabit academia and who will take both their art form and tertiary education in the arts forward into the future.  Erica Seccombe (ANU) presents the case for Life Drawing as an example of STEM to STEAM in action; Kate Hunter ( Deakin) and James Newitt (UTas) focus on the challenges faced by early career academics from institutional demands as they seek to maintain sustainability for both careers and the identify of their disciplines. Sam McAuliffe (Monash) considers how his academic study has contributed to his thinking, practice and future career; Lienors Torre (Deakin) argues that in a digital world where the ‘background research’ undertaken to produce an artwork  can be produced more quickly than in years gone by, teaching curation is a critical focus for educators;  Steph Kehoe (VCA)  writes of the hopes and aspirations of new generation theatre degree, and Budi Miller (VCA) adds more detail to the program and its aims. Niklavs Rubenis (ANU) explains the particular challenges, and benefits, of teaching studio-based craft and design.  Donna Franklin (ECU) provides two articles – the first, co written with Jane Whelan (ECU), a review of a recent exhibition featuring her colleagues: Annette Nykiel, Dr Sarah Robinson and Jane Whelan; and the second a reflection on her own work in the bio-art sphere. 

Special Feature: Next gen journalists on next gen artists

We also include a special feature by journalism students at Deakin University who, under the watchful eye of the fabulous Jennifer Martin (Deakin) interviewed graduating creative artists to produce a series of articles which were included as an assessment item for their degrees.  In her introduction to this special feature Jen reflects upon the process of including such an exercise as part of a formal assessment and  introduces us to this special feature’s guest writers: Shay Beck (on artist Louise Richardson);  Amellia Wood (on artist Jessika Schweintek); Erica Brady (on artist Catherine Holder);  Mitch Clarke (on artist Suf (Sophie) StJames);  Zoe Duggan  (on artist “Almost Iris” – Marta Oktaba): Jo French (on artist Maddy Newman); and Sam Dimitrieska (on artist Alice Radford).


[1] Hugo, G. (2005). Demographic trends in Australia’s academic workforce. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 27, 327–343

[2] For those interested in the other side of the demographic coin, Catherine Earl, Phillip Taylor and Fabian Canizzo have just published an interesting article in the journal ‘Work, Ageing and Retirement” entitled: “Regardless of Age”: Australian University Managers’ Attitudes and Practices Towards Older Academics. Accessible at: https://academic.oup.com/workar/article/doi/10.1093/workar/wax024/4344842/Regardless-of-Age-Australian-University-Managers

More from this issue

More from this issue

To work strategically can connote corporate, neoliberal ideology, selective professional networking, and economically motivated notions of efficiency that tend to exist in conflict with the ethos of the creative arts. But being strategic can also describe how we work creatively within our circumstances to enable a project to come to fruition.

“We are very visual people, could you imagine a world without colour or without any pictures, without any lettering, without any drawing, literally a blank world?’’

For Deakin University graduate, visionary artist Marta Oktaba “When you strip it back to a blank world of just grey blocks all around us there is still form, there are still lines and it is still something.”

Suf St James creates artworks completely within the social media app, “Snapchat” to challenge how women are subjected to abuse online. “This is the work people seem most interested in,” Suf said.

Victorian College of the Arts  at the University of Melbourne is moving into a new generation of Actor’s Training. We have taken the current Theatre Practice degree and divided it into a BFA in Acting and a BFA in Theatre. With the competitive nature of the entertainment industry, we feel it is our obligation to equip our students with the mastery of skills applicable to contemporary theatre and film.

In our current climate of Higher Education funding cuts, academics are dealing with many tasks and additional administration as part of their job. As the pressures on academics mount, part-time and casual positions in academia have become the rule rather than the exception

Jessica Schwientek is known by her fellow artists as a “dirty photographer”. “I was always getting told off by how dirty and filthy my negatives were,” Jessica said. “I didn’t realize at the time that my lecturer did a similar thing . . .”

After completing and thoroughly enjoying my Honours research project I was inspired to pursue a career as an academic. Having now been awarded a Master of Arts in music performance (100% research) and after picking up small amounts of casual academic employment, I’d like to share my experiences so far to hopefully shed some light on the process for those considering post-graduate research.

Catherine Holder, past student, author and performer, is sitting at the share table at Corner Café, a popular lunch spot at the Burwood campus of Deakin University.

She graduated with Honours from her Bachelor of Creative Arts, Drama, in April this year and is here to catch up with members of the Arts Faculty and to borrow some props for her show at The Owl and Cat Theatre, Richmond

I teach into the field of studio-based craft and design (SBCD). When it comes to teaching SBCD there are some particular challenges.

“I think going to university was definitely the right choice for me,” said visual artist and Deakin University final-year student Alice Radford.  “If I wasn’t at university I wouldn’t have bothered to do the research, or have the resources to do the research, to create the works that I have,” Alice said. “I think I would be just creating art on a Sunday just for fun.”

By Jennifer Martin — When Deakin University’s Associate Professor of Communication, Lisa Waller, asked me if I’d be interested in helping a group of journalism students write feature stories about graduates from the Bachelor of Creative Arts to be published in a special edition of NiTRO, I paused. For about a second.

In 2018, the theatre department at the Victorian College of the Arts will launch a new BFA Theatre - a course designed for ‘actor-creators’ – those theatre artists who want to devise and perform in their own work. As we developed the course this year, I found myself thinking often of a quote from Saint-Exupery’s Wisdom of the Sands:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

As a visual artist, my practice led-research is into frontier scientific technologies and computational aesthetics has resulted in transdisciplinary outcomes in the field of 4D Microcomputed X-ray tomography. Yet when I took my first permanent academic position as a part time lecturer in Foundation Studies, in 2015, I became responsible for convening and teaching a first year life drawing Figure & Life, a 12 week observational drawing course using a life model in a studio environment.

Creative artist Louise Richardson, 23, said it was her father’s death from cancer that made her realise she wanted to follow her passion.

 

As arts educators in a university context we are being asked to be curators and to effectively encourage the practice of curation within our students. Students today have access to unlimited amounts of online information and tutorials. But what they do not normally have access to is a strong curatorial filter – one that allows them to sift through information – beyond what is currently trending.

Transdisciplinary thinking, creating and collaborating provides a future of endless potential. Only with a foundation of education for all, ethical reflexivity and collective consciousness is there hope for the ‘humanity’ of the Homo sapiens.

As Tim Low suggests ‘Nature and people might be thought of as separate entities, but they don’t reside in separate places.’ Through their exhibition Thresholds and Thoughtscapes three artists; post-graduates Annette Nykiel, Sarah Robinson and Jane Whelan, ask the viewer to consider the familiarity of a place.

When Deakin University graduate Maddison Newman decided to create a performance to show audiences what it was like to live with the chronic pain she knew the process would not be easy.  But the winner of the Vice-Chancellor's Medal for Recognising Excellence, which honours students who experience hardship while studying, was up for the challenge.