NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Towards New Geographies

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.

ECU Alumni Katie West in front of her work.  Image by kind permission of the artist.

ECU Alumni Katie West in front of her work.  Image by kind permission of the artist.

By Dr Paul Uhlmann

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.

The School is based in Perth on the edge of the Indian ocean and takes advantage of its geographical location to work directly with universities in China and South East Asia. This international arena has afforded two year-long Colombo residencies to two of our students in China, resulting in ongoing internships for artists in a private art gallery in the French concession of Shanghai.

Geographic isolation along with the multi-disciplinary environment in which we work drives a different way of approaching our teaching and research. The main focus of this creative constellation is Spectrum Project Space which offers a more refined viewing space for students to test their practice, often colliding with disciplines from Dance, Film, Photography, Jazz, Education, Fashion and Visual Arts. The School is based in Perth on the edge of the Indian ocean and takes advantage of its geographical location to work directly with universities in China and South East Asia. This international arena has afforded two year-long Colombo residencies to two of our students in China, resulting in ongoing internships for artists in a private art gallery in the French concession of Shanghai.

Special projects, launched through the ECU art collection and administered through the school, work with Cuban artists on residencies and collaborative workshops. Additionally the School works with local Noongar and Aboriginal people from the north west of Australia through residencies and special projects through Open Bite Australia which enables a cross fertilization of cultural understandings of benefit to the community of the university and to the visiting artists and beyond. Through these geographically specific opportunities,  students and staff are able to critically develop and examine their own artistic voices to explore a hybrid of concerns revolving around questions of culture, society, materiality, embodiment, space and place, environment and much more. As the examples presented here highlight, we have many alumni who have gone on to have national and international careers as artists, designers and teachers and who are expanding their field well beyond traditional paradigms.

This stream of consciousness act where she became a living art gallery was a constant for her praxis over many years so that life and art merged as one. Her sense of humor which embraces the chaotic and the absurd has struck a cord and her work has recently been exhibited at the Tate Gallery London.

Danielle Freakley studied Drawing within the School and graduated with a BA in 2002. She has since gone on to expand her practice to include Performance, Sculpture, Interactive Installation, Drawing, Sound and Text and to gain international recognition. She came to national attention on the TV show ‘Enough Rope’ hosted by Andrew Denton where she performed her ‘quote generator’ answering every question with a culturally relevant reference. This stream of consciousness act where she became a living art gallery was a constant for her praxis over many years so that life and art merged as one. Her sense of humor which embraces the chaotic and the absurd has struck a cord and her work has recently been exhibited at the Tate Gallery London in 2016 where she was a first selection finalist for the Arsenale of Venice – Arte Laguna International Art Prize. She works out of Melbourne and Perth and has won many awards including a Andy Warhol Foundation supported New York Arts residency and arts residency in Performing Arts Forum in France.

Caitlin Yardley completed a Master of Visual Arts at ECU in 2007 where she developed an approach to painting which embraced installation practices so that the work was made in a manner sensitive to the nuances of architectural space. She furthered these aims embarking, with the assistance of several scholarships, on her international career studying at Goldsmiths in London from 2012. She has had many residencies In Britain and Europe and in 2014 was internationally recognized through the publication of 100 painters of tomorrow published by Thames and Hudson.

Yindjibarndi woman Katie West . . . has since gone on to create powerful work that considers the effects of colonization. . . . Part of the strength of her relational practice is to realize that one must work in many ways with community to educate and to actively construct a form of praxis which is subtle but strong.

Yindjibarndi woman Katie West developed her art practice as an undergraduate and has since gone on to create powerful work that considers the effects of colonization. She has done this through her art practice with exhibitions but also through writing articles for the Guardian and being interviewed on Awaye! on Radio National. Part of the strength of her relational practice is to realize that one must work in many ways with community to educate and to actively construct a form of praxis which is subtle but strong.

Dr. Sarah Jane Pell graduated with a PhD from ECU after researching underwater performance with the view of developing art and performance environments in space. Sarah has forged a unique international career in the art/science nexus and is now an astronaut candidate for a suborbital aeronomy mission, an experienced Simulation Astronaut for undersea trials, and imagineer for a MoonVillage. She was awarded Best PhD Art & Science by Leonardo AS, MIT 2007 and TED Fellow 2010. The first artist to graduate from the International Space University and Singularity University, she serves as Co-Chair of the European Space Agency (ESA) Topical Team Arts & Science, Senior Space Art Consultant to Icarus Interstellar, and Senior Advisor Diving to the Maritime Union of Australia.



Paul Uhlmann strives to question and translate philosophies of impermanence and the unifying interconnectedness of all living beings in his work. He works experimentally across the mediums of painting, printmaking, drawing and artists’ books. Paul studied art in Australia, Germany and Holland. He has exhibited widely since 1983 and his work is held in many prominent collections. He has lectured for over twenty years in various institutions including the Australian National University and Monash University and is currently the Coordinator of Visual Arts at Edith Cowan University. His work will feature in an upcoming major exhibition at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery (UWA), which aims to reveal new perspectives through art and science of the Batavia shipwreck (1629). His solo exhibition exploring impermanence and painting will be at Art Collective WA this November.

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. . .

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.

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’.