NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Editorial: Shaping Things To Come: Academia’s Contribution To Our Future Artistic Heritage

By Dr Jenny Wilson — In his 1999 book, Art Subjects, Howard Singerman saw the university as ‘a crucial structuring site where artists and art worlds are mapped and reproduced'.  University teaching, research and engagement agenda and the strategies that are adopted serve to enhance or restrict how its artists, staff and students, connect with and advance their genres and professions.

In This Edition Of NiTRO

In this edition of NiTRO, we consider how the university does, and should, connect with the myriad of genres, professions, industries and practitioners that make up ‘the art world’.

Creative arts education is a global endeavour. Pamela Burnard (Cambridge University, UK) highlights the common international need to update T & L strategies in her call for creative teaching for creative learning.  In a similar vein, Arun Sharma (QUT) observes a growing importance for the skills that creative arts disciplines bring to emerging industry developments and reflects upon new approaches which may be needed if creative arts education is ready to meet this demand.

Although comparatively new to the university sector, artistic disciplines have long histories of education that can inform techniques and practices to assist students prepare for life as professional practitioners. In a Q & A interview with Jenny Wilson, Clive Barstow (ECU) reminiscences about his own art school experiences and considers how these have shaped his thinking. Meanwhile, through interviews that include a number of DDCA members, Tamara Winikoff  (NAVA) traces some of the key issues that feature in the ongoing art school story.

Eileen Siddins (JCU) and Ryan Daniel (JCU) consider what strategies we can adopt to help build resilience in our graduates as they prepare to enter their chosen artistic profession while Sue Gillett (La Trobe) shares two programs that have delivered closer connection for creative writing students with the broader art world as well as enhancing their employment prospects. Interdisciplinarity is the key for Tracey Benson (Canberra) as she recounts her experiences in a New Zealand project, while for Vanessa Tomlinson (Queensland Conservatorium), it is direct collaboration between students, practitioners and academics exemplified by the recent Australian Percussion Gathering which resulted in a plethora of new compositions and performances. For Ian Haig (RMIT), academia is one of a number of influences that push contemporary art into the role of societal healer, distorting the artist’s role to provoke responses in their audiences.

How do our students experience their time as practitioners in academia? What influence does it have upon their practice as professional artists? Artistic Director of the Australian Art Orchestra, Peter Knight a graduate of VCA and Queensland Conservatorium, considers these questions.

Malcolm Gillies (ANU) provides an additional perspective to the discussion on artistic research featured in edition 2, with a personal recollection of his involvement in the Strand inquiry, as he wonders how creative arts research today would measure up against the criteria explored by Strand. Linda Ludwig (FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Switzerland) gives us an insight into European thinking from a recent symposium on artistic research that took place concurrently with the Basel Art Fair in Switzerland.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty for artists at Sydney College of the Arts and the National Art school, positive news for colleagues at UQ, Monash, AFTRS and La Trobe show that all is not negative across the sector as a whole. And as the recent successes by Music industry award winners Professors Paul Grabowsky and Andrew Schultz demonstrate, artists working in our universities continue to advance artistic practice outside ‘the ivory towers’.

Your Views?

How is the contemporary Australian university contributing to our artistic direction as a nation? As custodians of our cultural future, how are our pedagogical and engagement strategies supporting Australia’s current and emerging artists for the role that they will play in creating our artistic heritage?

Join the discussion by contributing your views and research reports on these questions or any other issues of importance to tertiary creative arts to our next edition of NiTRO. In particular, we welcome information on your upcoming end of year shows, performances, exhibitions, and screenings for a What’s On in Tertiary Arts feature.

More from this issue

More from this issue

By Su Baker, President, Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Creative Arts — In this issue of NiTRO we ask how well are we connecting the academy with artist practice outside the Citadel. How well are we preparing our students and how do we support our colleagues in their core career aspirations, that in most cases will be outside the university and educational context?
By Arun Sharma — Creative and performing arts disciplines are at an interesting juncture. After decades of concern about lack of funding, and about being sidelined in favour of the STEM disciplines, there may be some positive signals. The question is whether these disciplines are ready for the opportunities emerging from these signals.
By Malcolm Gillies — Sitting on my shelf for the last eighteen years has been a copy of "The Strand Report". Dennis Strand's excellent work was for a project overseen by the Head of the Canberra School of Art, David Williams, and chaired by Peter Karmel, a leading economist and former vice-chancellor of the ANU. It was the first coordinated attempt to bring together the full range of visual and performing artists to address how they might better fit in with the developing research expectations of the National Unified System.
By Tamara Winikoff OAM — Earlier this year ArtsHub, published an article by National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) CEO Tamara Winikoff on the changes in art schools following the Dawkins amalgamations. It collated views and experiences of those currently working in the university sector and provides a useful starting point to consider how contemporary universities are influencing artistic practice. With the permission of NAVA and Arts Hub the article is republished below and has been updated by Tamara for NiTRO.
By Eileen Siddins and Ryan Daniel — As Bourdieu describes in his text ‘Firing Back’, the modern world has moved into a work situation dominated by employment precariousness, constant insecurity and downsizing to increase profits and therefore shareholder return. While artists have in general faced employment stresses for centuries, the impact of the broader economic move towards dominant players and markets is affecting the art world as well.
By Dr Sue Gillett — The current trend in Australian universities has seen the proportion of enrolments in Arts subjects declining over the last decade, with regional universities and campuses more significantly affected.
By Associate Professor Vanessa Tomlinson — The second Australia Percussion Gathering, directed by Associate Professor Vanessa Tomlinson alongside advisors Tom O'Kelly, Dr. Louise Devenish and Francois Combemorel was held at Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University in July 2016. Sitting somewhere between a music festival, a conference and a music camp, the six day event brought together industry professionals, international guests, and an impressive 96% of all students studying percussion in tertiary institutions in Australia.
by Ian Haig — The status of the Avant grade has now been systematized into what Dave Hickey calls the ‘therapeutic institution' – a self-propagating structure of academics, curators, critics and artists proclaiming arts goodness for the world.
By Dr Peter Knight — The relationship between academia and artistic practice is in flux, and in my view that's one of the reasons why the space in which they meet is an exciting place to be working. I undertook two postgraduate degrees in music both of which had an emphasis on practice-based approaches.
By Professor Clive Barstow and Dr Jenny Wilson — On the eve of his 25th anniversary of his emigration to Australia, Jenny Wilson talks to artist and academic Clive Barstow about his reflections on arts education.
By Dr Linda Ludwig — The Symposium at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel – introduced by Carla Delfos from the European League of the Institutes of the Arts – brought together methodological reflections on research in the arts with recent activities from researchers in the field. It was goal of the Symposium to discuss how art and design generates knowledge that is of relevance to society.
By Professor Pamela Burnard — Why is it an imperative for arts institutions and academies to identify creative teaching in relation to creative learning as a vital way of addressing the politics of higher education? What is it about creative teaching in relation to creative learning that offers new priorities, new narratives, new forms of knowledge, new ways of ‘knowing how to speak' and ‘knowing how to hear' for creative teachers, artists and artist scholars?