NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Artist Led – the role of artist-run activity for visual arts graduates

Independent artists are faced with a challenging and transforming landscape that requires adaptive resilience in order to thrive creatively, today and in the future. How do we, as tertiary educators, empower and enable artists to build strong and flexible, professional contemporary art practices? To address this issue, my current research draws models of praxis from artist-run initiatives (ARI) in the Visual Arts industry, specifically from my experience as director of Boxcopy Contemporary Art Space.

Dr Rachael Haynes

Independent artists are faced with a challenging and transforming landscape that requires adaptive resilience in order to thrive creatively, today and in the future. How do we, as tertiary educators, empower and enable artists to build strong and flexible, professional contemporary art practices? To address this issue, my current research draws models of praxis from artist-run initiatives (ARI) in the Visual Arts industry, specifically from my experience as director of Boxcopy Contemporary Art Space.

HOMEGROUND was an accumulative exhibition project. . . The participants in the project involved local artist-run initiatives. . . all of whom were founded by artists during their art school studies or soon after graduation

Boxcopy was founded by seven QUT art school graduates in 2007 in response to a lack of exhibiting opportunities for local, emerging artists and initially operated from the basement of a Queenslander house in New Farm, Brisbane. Functioning primarily as a collective until 2011, Boxcopy was the first participant of Metro Arts ARI-in-residence program, and then operated from a small gallery space in a CBD office building, as well as presenting numerous off-site projects. In 2012 Boxcopy became a non-profit organisation, and I took up the newly formed, volunteer role of Gallery Director – responsible for programming and funding, as well as the day-to-day management of the space. In this way, Boxcopy seems to present a particular ARI narrative if you like, from the temporary, domestic project space to the small-scale institutional gallery, and after ten years, is now one of Brisbane’s longest operating artist run spaces.

In 2016, I initiated a collaborative exhibition project at Boxcopy addressing current artist-run culture in Brisbane – HOMEGROUND. The gallery operated as a site for process-based and dialogic exchange between six local artist run initiatives, emphasising collaborative and speculative methods of working. In terms of the format, HOMEGROUND was an accumulative exhibition project, with each participating ARI in-residence for one week in succession, with the gallery open to the public each weekend. The participants in the project involved local artist-run initiatives – FAKE Estate, Clutch Collective, Cut Thumb ARI, The Laundry Artspace and Inhouse ARI – all of whom were founded by artists during their art school studies or soon after graduation (from 2012-2016). Like Boxcopy, this artist run activity is generated to provide a platform for experimental work, support local emerging artists, facilitate collaboration and initiate national dialogues.

Collaborative and dialogic methods formed the key approach to HOMEGROUND – with ongoing conversations and exchanges taking place between the participants. These discussions emphasised the responsive nature of the project, the necessity of adapting proposals and plans, and some of the potential challenges that could arise as each ARI added to the exhibition. The purpose of this curatorial method was to provide a structure for experimentation and speculative activity as artists collaborated and worked together – the physical gallery space providing a conduit for existing and new conversations and exchanges. This project demonstrated how ARIs like Boxcopy provide space for artists to play, test ideas, take creative risks, explore new directions in their practice and to connect with other practitioners and audiences.

Artist-run organisations are a vital element of the arts ecology and model ways of operating that are agile, responsive and adaptable

Artist-run organisations are a vital element of the arts ecology and model ways of operating that are agile, responsive and adaptable. The central ethos of ARIs is to be artist-focused, both in terms of programming and management, and they provide opportunities for artists to be self-determining and self-organised. They also provide open, social spaces connecting artists and creating communities of practitioners. For students and graduates, initiating and organising artist-run spaces can provide formative experience, for example in undertaking governance, curatorial, installation, promotional and administrative roles; and help to develop professional profiles, networks and employability. As well as providing this hands-on experience, artist-run activity has the potential to adapt, modify and reinvent institutional frameworks in order to create new ways of thinking, making and engaging with art. It demonstrates how artists working together can challenge and reimagine the present and future possibilities of organising and participating in the arts.


Dr Rachael Haynes is a Lecturer in Visual Arts, School of Creative Practice, at Queensland University of Technology, where she co-ordinates advanced studio art practice, and is a program leader for Socially and Ecologically Engaged Practices in the Creative Lab. Haynes is an artist, a founding member of the feminist art collective LEVEL and director of artist-run organisation Boxcopy Contemporary Art Space. Haynes’ feminist art practice acts as a zone of interdisciplinary production bringing together drawing and performative installations with social activism, pedagogy, curatorial and collaborative strategies. Haynes completed her PhD, reframing exhibition practice in terms of difference, with the support of an Australian Postgraduate Award for research in 2009, and her current research investigates feminist ethics and exhibition practice, specifically in the context of artist run spaces.

More from this issue

More from this issue

In higher education, we like to throw around the term “successful” when referring to our alumni, but what do we really mean by that?  Employed, certainly (if that is their goal).  Financially stable, making enough money to have a decent quality of life.  But beyond that, is more money really the best way to measure more success?  What else should we consider in this assessment?

Writing twenty years ago, Neumann (1996) questioned the existence of a nexus between research and teaching roles. Reviewing the literature up until the late-1980s, she asserted that few academics find a nexus because of the privileging of research over teaching. From the 1990s, however, she found the research-teaching nexus to be bi-directional and multi-level, with many students identifying the nexus as an opportunity for scholarly interactions. . . . This short discussion paper retains the focus on the artist academic and further extends the ART nexus through the addition of employability.

In the last thirty to forty years there has been a concerted drive in the Australian academy, to justify creative arts training in forms that articulate with economic worth, vocational function and government policy. . . . While there have been great gains in recognising the value of creative work within academic frameworks, their effect on the creative academics who deliver these graduate outcomes remains underexplored. . .

Emerging out of a multidisciplinary history, including an ongoing relationship with the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), the School of Arts and Humanities at Edith Cowan University has shaped and honed a contemporary focus through actively defining the usefulness of art for today’s society whether that be through praxis or pedagogy or a hybrid of the two. The ethos of the school is to explore and experiment and to push back from pre-determined understandings – to collaborate, innovate and find solutions through a merging of making and theory often employing whatever is to hand.

I completed a double degree in Music and Law at Monash University, graduating from music in 2010 and from law in 2013 The opportunity to study under the guidance of Australia’s leading performing jazz artists and alongside talented peers was a dream come true.

Over the last ten years, I have engaged in a number of research projects exploring the impact of a higher education degree in the creative and performing arts for graduates seeking a career in the creative industries. In essence, I have discovered that a creative arts degree provides students with three significant career-building opportunities. . . On the other side of the coin, . . . graduates in industry often report that they are insufficiently prepared for the complex nature of the creative industries work environments

Georgie Meagher graduated with undergraduate and masters degrees in Creative Arts (Performance) from the University of Wollongong in 2008. She is now CEO of Next Wave Australia’s most comprehensive platform for emerging artists whichincludes learning programs and a biennial festival.  NiTRO editor, Jenny Wilson, spoke with her about the influence of her university years, her role as an alumni and her advice for graduating students.

After six decades of music education, Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University graduates are making their mark in the performing arts industry, both in Australia and abroad. its alumni include players in leading positions in every Australian state orchestra, and a host of Grammy and ARIA award winners and many internationally recognised musicians including Dami Im, Jayson Gillham, Katie Noonan, Piers Lane, Megan Washington, Kate Miller-Heidke, Lisa Gasteen and Brett Dean have all passed through the Queensland Conservatorium.

LinkedIn has been described as the non-sexy, sleeping dragon of social media (Buck, 2012).  It has become the premiere social media site for professionals; most employers in the UK will search for a job candidate on LinkedIn.  This makes it very useful when searching for jobs internships, exploring careers or accessing company information. Yet, while students may be active on other social media platforms they are less engaged with LinkedIn. Certainly our creative students report that LinkedIn has little appeal

What do students of art need to know and be able to do today in order to flourish tomorrow? For the past ten years I have been exploring this question within the context of US art schools (Salazar, 2013a, 2013b, 2014, 2016). Reflecting on this body of research, three strategies stand out by which we, as educators, can better prepare art students to meet future challenges. We need to prompt inquiry, nurture entrepreneurial dispositions, and facilitate creative communities of practice.

If one was to believe the various reports emanating from the popular media, creative arts schools provide a waiting room for global graduate unemployment.  As we all know, nothing could be further from the truth or, as the US Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts puts it ‘Uncle Henry is Wrong’.

By Dr Jenny Wilson. DDCA’s Research officer Jenny Wilson caught up with Henk Borgdorff in Amsterdam in April 2016, hot on the heels of his recent speaking tour of European and UK universities, art and music schools, to find out more about artistic research and European experiences of the politics of art and higher education.
By Professor Jeri Kroll Since the Strand report (1998), scholars have been unpacking the manifold ways in which creative works can be research. Explaining the usefulness of questions to doctoral candidates not only keeps supervisors honest, but also keeps at the forefront of everyone’s mind why theory is unavoidable.
By Professor Paul Draper and Professor Scott Harrison Communities of profession, the old academy and the new academy, intimately rub up against each other and while some research may still be considered ‘more equal’ than others for now – this evolving mix can only positively impact on the rise of artistic research, its acceptance in society and its measurement by governments and universities.
By Associate Professor Cheryl Stock AM — The narrative of knowledge is almost always underpinned by the cognitive but how we know the world is often through the experiential. Whilst we have moved a long way in redefining knowledge in research terms to include the processes and outcomes of our practices (artistic, creative, professional) and importantly have privileged the artist’s voice as the expert in this recasting of what a knowledge claim might look like, some art forms prove more problematic than others in this endeavour.
By Associate Professor Robert Burke and Dr. Andrys Onsman — Criticism of the scientific methods of doing research has increasingly pointed out that all experimental research involves some sort of creative leap. In the performing arts such creative leaps are fundamental to artistry.
By Dr Leo Berkeley — The creative practice of filmmaking, understood as a form of academic research, has been growing in scale and significance within Australian universities for several years. While doctorates involving the making of a film have been occurring for decades, it is only relatively recently that the academic screen production community has been seeking to more systematically establish how the production of a film can lead to the discovery of new knowledge.
By Dr Danny Butt — During the 1990s and 2000s, as readers of NiTRO know well, an intensive debate took place among art and design academics as to whether their practices and those of their graduate students could be called research, and if so what “contribution to knowledge” might be made by the creative output, as distinct from the writing that has traditionally accompanied submissions in higher degrees in creative arts.
By Professor Margaret Sheil — On my last outing in an ACUADS conference, I was described by Flinders University’s Julian Meryick as the “artist’s ideal of a scientist… impatient with the reduction of everything down to short term utility.” So as I venture once again into the creative arts domain, I draw on a scientific analogy. The principle of chemical equilibrium refers to a system in which the rate of consumption of inputs is the same as that at which outputs are produced so that the system is in a stable state of consumption and production.
By Professor Ross Woodrow — The decision by the Australia Research Council (ARC) to achieve the long-mooted merging of the Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) and the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise by adeptly disappearing the HERDC has been welcomed by many discipline leaders, and not just those in the creative arts. With the inclusive ERA becoming the singular evaluation of research quality across Australia, there couldn’t be a better time to rethink the classification of research in universities.