NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Brave New world: taking the learnings forward

With the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic yet to be realised and a recent Australian defence report warning of Australia’s vulnerabilities to overlapping “crises as diverse as cyberwar, climate-induced catastrophe and a pandemic”, is our sector prepared for an unpredictable future?

By Professor Kit Wise

In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the devastation of the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, in parallel with the 2020 ACUADS Conference, this edition of NITRO explores the theme of crisis and resilience through examples from across the Creative Arts.

With the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic yet to be realised and a recent Australian defence report warning of Australia’s vulnerabilities to overlapping “crises as diverse as cyberwar, climate-induced catastrophe and a pandemic”, is our sector prepared for an unpredictable future? Dr Nancy Mauro-Flude (RMIT) discusses the connections between art, technology and economy and Associate Professor James Oliver (RMIT) takes stock of the year noting how it has shaped our sense of location and engagement.

Collaborative research and education have never been more important as we face multiple shared crises. How can art intersect with other disciplines, industries and communities to help, and what are the unique contributions only artists can make? Professor Matt Delbridge (Deakin) shares the story of two UK based artists whose stage performance was disrupted by lockdown, while Dr Kate Cantrell (USQ), Dr Emma Doolan (SCU) and Dr Kelly Palmer (QUT) chart some of the impacts on teaching and learning during the pandemic including a fascinating observation on changing student creative focus.

In this time of unprecedented global uncertainty, what can be learned from the impacts of recent overlapping crises? Furthermore, how might strategies developed insulate the student and academy of the future? As we begin to assume the “new normal”, how do we discard practices that no longer serve us? And, how do we shape what has worked to build the optimism and resilience needed to flourish in our new paradigm? Dr Julia Prendergast (AAWP, Swinburne) reflects on the recent AAWP conference and the solidarity that such initiatives offer to writer-researchers; and Dr Kate Cantrell (USQ) and Associate Professor Jessica Gildersleeve (USQ) explain the concept of ‘academic kindness’ and demonstrate how they applied this in their teaching.

As we farewell 2020 and hope 2021 will be kinder, this edition considers approaches, discoveries, learnings and values that will help find the way forward.

More from this issue

More from this issue

At the time of writing, we find ourselves within a liminal historical moment, floating between what was and what might be. In our shared experience teaching Creative Writing during COVID, we observed common pedagogical challenges across undergraduate programmes at USQ, SCU, and QUT.

*Throwntogetherness – this is the terminology of cultural geographer Doreen Massey. It is a term she used for thinking about (and with) place: as a ‘time-space’ of relational encounters, open and progressive, full of potential, and of the eventfulness of place.

As Chair of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP), the peak academic body representing the discipline of Creative Writing in Australasia, I recently joined colleagues to celebrate the AAWP annual conference. This encouraged me to reflect upon AAWP initiatives that bring us together as writer-researchers, through collaborative and community-minded initiatives.

I want to share a quick lock down story about performance ensemble Split Britches – Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw. Lois and Peggy found themselves at the start of the pandemic this year locked down in London – and as two senior artists (both in their 70’s) lockdown in the UK was very different for them compared to many of us.

In a recent article published in Times Higher Ed, North American scholars working in public health, sociology, and STEM discussed their reshaping of curricula to teach the pandemic … teaching narratives of trauma in a first-year Australian literature course, offered during lockdown, we were cognisant of the importance of connecting with students who not only felt disconnected from their studies during the pandemic but additionally discomfited and perhaps distanced by the challenging nature of the course.

Last summer of 2019-20, at the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic we (once again) witnessed parts of the country go up in flames. Since then many varied viewpoints in regard to climate change, health, economy, politics and identity and so on whirls amongst the interstices of the planet through vernacular news feeds, word of mouth, graffiti, 5G tower arsonist sabotages and other various forms of internet folklore.