NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Editorial: Tertiary arts graduates and alumni: Forging a fabulous creative future

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’.

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’.

In Australia, according to the Australia Council’s recently released report on National Arts participation, 98% of Australians engage with the arts, and creative arts graduates and alumni represent a critical mass with whom the public engage, whether through listening, viewing, reading, experiencing or clicking.

While we wait for the government’s graduate employment definitions to catch up with the portfolio careers and ‘gig economy’ that typify artists professional careers, creative arts graduates and alumni are forging successful careers and our institutions, schools and teachers continue to support and grow a new generation of cultural ambassadors, through ever strengthening pedagogical strategies and research.

In this edition of NiTRO:

Ryan Daniel (JCU) revisits his research focus over the past ten years to reassert the importance of tertiary study to creative careers and explores how mentoring could be harnessed more formally to greater advantage;    

Also drawing upon research, Diana Blom (WSU) and Dawn Bennett (Curtin) suggest that it is time to add employability to the concept of the Artistic Research and Teaching nexus and for arts to take the lead in forging good practice for practice based disciplines;

Shane Strange (University of Canberra) reminds us that as the mentors of this new generation of artists, academics also need to be supported if they are to deliver the graduate successes that students deserve;

US colleagues, Stacey Salazar (Maryland Institute of Art) focuses on how we can more accurately report graduate employment in creative arts, while Angie Miller (Indiana University) draws on her recent research to identify ways in which creative arts educators can support graduate success.

Jo Conlon (University of Huddersfield) brings a UK perspective to the discussion showing how the popular online professional app LinkedIn can help to join the dots between alumni, students and graduate employment.

Turning to the alumni that have graduated from our universities and art institutions, Louise Crossen (Griffith) showcases some of Queensland Conservatorium’s successful alumni underscoring the influence of academic staff and Paul Uhlmann (ECU) outlines how university initiatives are shaping a successful alumni reputation on the opposite side of the country.  Rachael Haynes (QUT) describes how creative arts schools can form the basis for innovative artist led businesses after graduation.

Monash University alumnus, Nicholas Marks, reflects upon the hard work that took him to his successful international music career and, in a Q & A feature, Georgie Meagher, CEO of Next Wave, recalls the influence of her University of Wollongong days and discusses the important role that can alumni play to support the next generation of artists.

More from this issue

More from this issue

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.

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.

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. . .