NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Obstacles and opportunities in arts publishing + Arts Monthly Australia offer to HDR candidates

The arts publishing industry in Australia is remarkably vibrant and resilient, offering a platform for a range of voices and serving the interests of multiple demographics in a nation built on the virtues of cultural diversity and equal opportunity. In this ecology, the running of a nationally distributed arts magazine can be a complex, albeit highly rewarding endeavour.

By Dr Alex Burchmore

The arts publishing industry in Australia is remarkably vibrant and resilient, offering a platform for a range of voices and serving the interests of multiple demographics in a nation built on the virtues of cultural diversity and equal opportunity. In this ecology, the running of a nationally distributed arts magazine can be a complex, albeit highly rewarding endeavour.

In recent years, new challenges have emerged as the pools of government funding on which Australian arts organisations have long depended appear to be drying up. The rise of digital platforms has been another motivator for change, in a market previously dominated by print.

Art Monthly Australasia is one of the longest-running and most respected arts magazines in the country but, in terms of staff and patrons, also one of the most streamlined and sensitive to social and cultural shifts. Further compounding changes in funding and audience, the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent economic devastation have prompted some difficult decisions, yet these events have also brought opportunities to reflect and adapt.

Based at the Australian National University since 1989, with an office in the School of Art & Design since 1992, Art Monthly Australasia has been an arts magazine of record for the region for over three decades, publishing critical commentary and reviews that combine authority and accessibility. Upholding the legacy of founding editor, Peter Townsend – who in 1987 created the Australian offshoot of the English publication he had helped start in London in 1976 – it continues to hold the distinction of being Australasia’s only magazine to position the visual arts within contemporary, historical and regional contexts.


AMA spring 2020 cover provided courtesy of AMA

AMA spring 2020 cover provided courtesy of AMA

Art Monthly Australasia Complimentary Offer

To honour this legacy, Art Monthly Australasia would like to offer Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates enrolled at any Australian tertiary institution complimentary access to our extensive digital archives with the purchase of any print subscription.

Simply enter the promo code AMAHDR2020 on checkout.




Following the temporary closure earlier this year of galleries, bookshops and newsagents across Australia, including most of those who stock Art Monthly Australasia, the magazine transitioned to a quarterly format. Our current issue is the first “official” quarterly edition. While there is a certain irony in the quarterly publication of a monthly magazine, this issue amply demonstrates the opportunities that the new format offers for expansion rather than contraction. Guest-edited by Canberra-based artist Raquel Ormella, #OurNamesAmongstOthers is dedicated to the promotion and discussion of feminist art practices beyond the institution, in response to the National Gallery of Australia’s ongoing #KnowMyName campaign.

In addition to the more focused selection of articles that a quarterly format has allowed us to develop, funds received from artsACT and Create NSW have been used to commission a series of artistic interventions on our Instagram profile and a mail art project involving six emerging and established artists.

Such initiatives and the conditions of social isolation that define a COVIDSafe Australia have prompted us to dedicate more time to our online presence, creating a Twitter profile for the magazine and increasing the depth and breadth of content published on our blog, including a series of pieces written in response to the unfolding crisis.

These and other articles across our digital and print platforms highlight our dedication, as one of Australia’s most respected arts publications, to the critical discussion of artists and works of art that engage with broader sociocultural issues.

The pandemic and economic crisis have revealed the extent to which women across the world continue to struggle against prejudice and inequality, as the contributors to our current issue demonstrate in stark terms. The recent announcement of the 2020 Fuse Glass Prize and 18th Meroogal Women’s Art Prize, as well as the creation of new works that give voice to various aspects of the crisis by artists Camila Galaz and Laresa Kosloff, offer a small indication of the substantial number of women in the arts, an industry in desperate need of support.

Recent articles by Sophia Halloway, Andrea Huelin and John Mateer shed light on the growing number of artists engaging with projects of environmental awareness and innovation, looking back on the first crisis of 2020 – the catastrophic bushfires that devastated large swathes of the country and engulfed cities in a suffocating haze – while reminding readers that there are even greater threats to our existence on the horizon.

The pandemic has also refocused public attention on the needs of those who live in or identify with First Nations communities, another extremely valuable but sadly vulnerable demographic. Art Monthly Australasia has proudly maintained a commitment to the promotion and critical discussion of First Nations art since our founding over three decades ago, and we continue to prioritise First Nations artists and writers in print and online, as shown in recent pieces by Claire G. Coleman, Hannah Kothe, Erin Vink, Emily Wakeling and Nicole Fiedler Wallace.

Our greatest pride is reserved for a new initiative to be launched in 2021, for which expressions of interest are now open until 30 October 2020: our Indigenous Voices Program. Developed in partnership with the Australia Council for the Arts, this program is designed to support the next generation of Indigenous writers and mentors as they grow and develop agency in critical arts writing, within a culturally safe framework.

2020 has been a year of many obstacles – 2021, we hope, will be a year of opportunities.

Dr Alex Burchmore, Publication Manager for Art Monthly Australasia and sessional lecturer at the Australian National University’s Centre for Art History & Art Theory, is a scholar of Chinese art, global trade, and transcultural art-historical methodologies. He has published widely inside and outside Australia in the Oxford Art Journal, Index Journal, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, TAASA Review, and Kunstlicht, among other journals and magazines. In 2019, he received the inaugural Oxford Art Journal Essay Prize for Early Career Researchers, and in 2018 received the AAANZ award for Best Scholarly Article in the ANZJA.

More from this issue

More from this issue

Regional tertiary students learned alternative skills in performance when after just two weeks of face to face acting classes, we were forced to undertake all teaching and learning online via Zoom due to the pandemic. Emergency remote teaching offered in response to a crisis such as COVID-19 is different to well-planned online learning experiences.

My friend, Kate Daw, died from cancer on 7 September. Kate was Head of the VCA School of Art, in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, at the University of Melbourne. I first met Kate in 1994 when I was a third-year undergraduate student in Sculpture at the VCA. I saw her one day just outside the Sculpture yard and I approached her to introduce myself. From that moment we stayed within each others’ psychic radar.

The current and projected state of Creative Arts, in the context of an ongoing global pandemic, can be symbolically represented by Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse. This fable refers to power balances and how these can be inverted, regardless of the implied strength or magnitude, which ultimately indicates that even the smallest being – in their creative resourcefulness – is capable of assisting a greater one.

It’s probably not a good time to be using flu symptoms as a metaphor for the grim circumstances that envelops us all. But being the good scholar I aim to be, if I am going to use it then I’d better use the right source. It was, in fact, not an American politician but the Austrian diplomat, Klemens von Metternich, who first coined the snappy phrase “When France sneezes, the rest of Europe catches a cold.”

On 28 September, Currents, a new post-graduate arts research journal, was launched through the Centre of Visual Arts (CoVA) at the University of Melbourne by editors Kelly Fliedner and Jeremy Eaton. This new initiative, established between CoVA and the School of Design, University of Western Australia, draws on a broad range of arts-based research to form an interdisciplinary, supportive and valuable platform, which highlights the rigorous inquiries being undertaken by emerging scholars.

Winding through ARM (Ashton Raggatt McDougall) Architects’ 2001 design for the Garden of Australian Dreams at the National Museum of Australia Canberra, snakes an impressive architectural interpretation of the Boolean string rising and plunging like a rollercoaster. This bold element is intended to conceptually embody the past and future of our Australian history, within which we are entangled.

2020 has waged a remarkable and sustained attack on the ranks of the glass half full creative practitioner. As the consequences of COVID-19 have leeched through every fibre of our industry, trying to identify anything that might signal a bright, or even brighter, future could be seen to be the preserve of a strange cabal of tin hat wearing creatives.

2020 has brought major changes that have, and will continue, to impact upon higher education and tertiary creative arts in particular. But as our contributors remind us, these upheavals have brought resilience and innovation to the fore in creative arts.

If we can look up and away from the ongoing challenges to both the arts and tertiary sectors, we may see some opportunity. Ways of doing things differently, working together in new ways, trying methods we may not have previously, looking at sustainability in different ways.