NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Edition 35, 2021 – Motivation, structure and meaning

By Professor Jane Davidson — As we move through public zones, we are surrounded by the results of creative arts endeavours: the music that seeps into our consciousness across the aisles in clothes stores or in the local restaurant; the art that is exhibited in parks and galleries or found the design and fabric of the colossal buildings and monuments in our towns and cities, or even art reproduced to be enjoyed in everyday items such as notebook covers and postcards.

In 2019, nearly 500 women over fifty participated in a photography event called 500 Strong. Photographer Ponch Hawkes photographed these women posing nude in studio spaces in Melbourne and in Victorian regional towns … to fashion a dialogue about women’s bodies that avoided the clichés of decline and loss, but as an artistic challenge to reimagine ageing representation.

It is well-known musicians enjoy their art form because it blends challenge and satisfaction: playing with a high-level of motor and musical refinement, while facilitating important self-to-other transactions linked to social cohesion, and implicit and explicit wellbeing outcomes. In the early months of 2020, the world went into a self-imposed lock down in response to Coronavirus, and many musicians watched as their whole performance calendars disappear overnight.

Co-design is a robust collaborative approach to design practices and processes that invites participation from multiple stakeholders in shaping and responding to collectively identified problems or issues.

The Creativity and Wellbeing Hallmark Research Initiative (CAWRI) was established in 2019 by a group of senior researchers from seven of the University of Melbourne’s ten faculties to build capacity and foster inter- and cross-disciplinary research collaborations focusing on creativity and wellbeing.

Australia is now entering into a “second convict age”. This was the bold assertion made by Federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh in his recent report on the rising rates of incarceration in Australia. Currently more than 10.74 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, and since 2000 the world prison population has grown by almost 24%.

Those of us who work in higher education will be aware of two broad facets in relation to wellbeing at work: That institutions are in some manner concerned about, it and that our workplaces and cultures are not always particularly good for wellbeing.

During the turbulent beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic, with threats of extreme global consequences hanging over each word read, each key pressed, those of us early in our careers found a melancholy and perhaps a distaste towards research and work. It was hard to stay the course when the course seemed to be falling out from underneath. Our group provided inspiration and enthusiasm for continuing our work.

I live in Lismore in northern NSW and in 2017 it was devastated by a major flood. Ex-cyclone Debbie had travelled down Queensland’s coast, into the Northern Rivers and hit with a vengeance … I had the urge to provide a space for community reflection on that flood and what we had learned. What I created became Flood Stories.

The Feral Queer Camp, at its most simple, involves pulling together a “gaggle”, a group or gang, of queer people who are interested in performance – this could be theatre makers, audience members, writers – and just travelling together through a series of performances, so that we can build a vocabulary for talking about the works together.