NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

The essence of creative arts leadership, advocacy and representation

By Jenny Wilson — The landscape has shifted for many in tertiary creative arts. COVID has focused government attention and funding towards the health and science areas, and at the same time changes to the student fee structures have disadvantaged those in the creative arts, social sciences and particularly the humanities.

Staff cuts have been widespread across all disciplines and those in creative arts report staff reductions across the sector combined with lack of university interest (in resourcing terms).

Online learning has become a de rigueur component of education and the creative arts has engendered innovative and valuable ways of learning and creative expression. This has been mirrored by those in the broader arts industry to cope with venue close downs where their artforms and resources allow. But has this transition to digital replacement of the physical connectivity of art and audience increased invisibility of the arts and muffled its voice?

With these challenges in mind, the need for a strong collective voice to represent and advocate for the creative arts is imperative. In academia, as in the broader arts community, peak bodies and organisations proliferate – for the sector; for staff/workers; for students; for styles of teaching and for disciplines.

DDCA was formed to offer a common platform for all tertiary visual and performing arts and creative writing disciplines bringing together the voices from individual art forms and peak body organisations. By now it is clear that the initial aspiration that tertiary creative arts would be represented by a government funded scholarly academy, as is the case for every other broad university discipline group, has a slim chance of success.  Perversely, this realisation gives DDCA the “freedom” to consider what sort of organisational model would best support creative arts staff and students. Given the close connection with our “industries” does the typical “disciplinary” scholarly academy even offer the best way forward for tertiary creative arts? What sort of features and leadership works, or perhaps doesn’t work for creative arts?  Are there organisations that offer the best mechanisms for representing the unique features of our sector? Are there best practice models or features from the broader arts community that DDCA and other peak bodies could draw upon to improve delivery, advocacy and representation?

In this edition of NiTRO, a selection of leaders from across the broad creative arts community, add their advice and experience of what works for them and what might work for tertiary creative arts. Collaboration across tertiary, industry, practitioners, discipline and artform represents a common theme.

Lucy Brown (South Bank University UK) shares the development and guiding ethos behind Women in Screen.

Jamie Lewis, CEO / Executive Director at Next Wave, presents provocations to assist tertiary arts to support student transition to professional artist.

Claire Watson, Director of National Exhibitions Touring Support (NETS) Victoria, emphasises the importance of inclusivity to create a lifepath of creativity where artists can thrive.

Lee Hornsby, Senior Development & Partnerships Manager, Creative UK shares the key principles which has supported its successful trajectory as the UK’s most influential creative arts representation and advocacy body.

Genevieve Jacobs, Chair of the ACT Arts Minister’s Creative Council and Canberra international Music Festival (amongst many roles) empathises with the silo mentality that is present in many arts organisations but reinforces the need for collaboration to ensure sustainability.

Professor Kit Wise (RMIT) Chair of The Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS) recounts the strategies and successes of one of Australia’s longest serving creative arts peak body.

Professor Vanessa Tomlinson (Griffith) offers a way to revitalise the broader creative arts academic and ‘industry’ sector by recognising the connections brought by HDR projects.

More from this issue

More from this issue

By Lee Hornsby — Creative UK champions, connects, supports, and invests in creative people and businesses. We’re a group of diverse and inclusive professionals who believe in the power of the creative industries to change lives, placing creativity at the heart of the UK’s culture, economy and education system.
By Genevieve Jacobs — I grew up in and have lived most of my life in NSW wheat country. From the wide expanses of West Wyalong to the rolling, fertile hills at Wallendbeen, the places of my heart are dotted with the familiar architecture of silos.
By Lucy Brown — Strides have been made to tackle the lack of gender equality within the screen industry but despite this only 14% of all directors are women, 27% producers, 20% writers, 17% editors and 7% cinematographers –statistics that have barely changed in 20 years (Calling the Shots).
By Professor Kit Wise — ACUADS, The Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools is the national peak body for the university visual arts, crafts and design disciplines. ACUADS represents over 20 Australian university art and design faculties, schools and departments and other academic units offering university degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels; as well as Vocational Education providers and private institutions.
By Jamie Lewis — When I completed my undergraduate studies in art school in Singapore, I remember thinking I knew the theatre that I didn’t want to make, and not the theatre I wanted to make. I then lapped up the opportunity to undertake a postgraduate diploma in Australia a year later.
By Professor Vanessa Tomlinson — The Creative Arts Research Institute began at Griffith University in July of 2021, in the middle of a pandemic which has caused profound disruptions to all our research; both in the tertiary sector and the arts sector.
By Claire Watson — It is easy to lament the chronic underfunding of the arts in Australia. Some may mistake the tireless production of content for festivals, exhibition tours and online programs as evidence of a healthy and robust industry. Optimism and impactful advocacy are, of course, necessities in the current climate.