Archives for category: Learning

Savita Apte is an Art Historian specialising in Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art. She began her career in Sotheby’s where she was instrumental in founding the Sotheby Prize for Contemporary Indian Art. She is a director of Art Dubai, as well as a regular lecturer at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS) and the Sotheby’s Institute.

Interview by Shivangi Ambani

What are the best personal strategies you have put in place to gain skills in your career?

The best strategy I have used is hands-on-learning, particularly from someone with a lot of experience in the area and that can act as a mentor. Those have been the most fruitful and memorable of my learning experiences.

 How have you helped to develop those around you?  Do you mentor and what value do you gain from that?

I went into mentoring without knowing it, and have developed deep relationships in the process. I supervise several research students and keep in touch with those I have mentored. They may sometimes correct the fallacies that I may develop over time and bring fresh and innovative ideas on board.

What role have you learnt from the most – the most challenging or the one that you have felt most out of your comfort zone?  

Perhaps the most challenging role for me so far has been the one of a PhD student (Savita is a doctoral candidate with SOAS, studying modernism in Indian art). I have been out of the student mode for so many years. Particularly accessing electric journals and e-libraries is not something that is very easy for me. Some of my Master’s students have helped me navigate through these virtual references.

Do you feel the arts industry offers enough in the way of professional development?  

The industry can perhaps offer more, it has so far been a contained industry, where galleries are handed down through families. However, these spaces are being reformed and renegotiated. Certainly auction houses, like Sotheby’s, are offering courses in arts management and arts business and there will be more development in the years to come. The industry can and should do more.

How different is the educational process when you are speaking to your students at SOAS or Sotheby’s versus the audience at Art Dubai’s educational program? What kind of programming has generated most interest at Art Dubai?

The student at SOAS is expecting more focused information and is much more receptive and critical of the information. When catering to a general audience, you have to provide all kinds of information and different levels of engagement. One-on-one conversations with the artists have generated the most interest. People were interested in understanding how the creative mind works and how that is translated into a visual medium.

Interested in further learning?

This week’s interview is based on a panel of emerging arts practitioners in a round table discussion about their experiences of entering the arts industry. In the arts, there is a preconceived notion that internships only involve stuffing envelopes and coffee runs. This panel serves to break down this stereotype and discuss the value, as well as the positive and negative experiences, and how it can affect your career in the arts industry. Reflecting on past experience they examine ways in which we can provide more support and learning opportunities for emerging art practitioners. To allow openness and honesty in the interview, the participants have remained anonymous.

Interview by Georgina Sandercock

What do you see are the barriers to getting a successful foothold into the arts industry?

Panel Member 1: For me, education has had a huge impact on my career. I feel that in general, the arts management post-graduate degrees available are not providing the necessary practical skill set needed for success in the arts industry. These post-graduate degrees offer a wide variety of theoretical knowledge, but lack the means in which to execute this in a practical setting. Where else can we access valuable resources and networks if not through our education?

Panel Member 2:  In today’s arts climate, almost every person interested in the arts industry attains a relevant post-graduate degree, so each year at least 150 other graduating students with identical resumes will be applying for the same jobs. With these statistics and a lack of practical knowledge, looking for jobs can be daunting and in some cases seem hopeless.

Panel Member 3: I think it is virtually impossible to apply for a job without doing some kind of volunteering or unpaid internships. To other industries it may seem ludicrous to give long periods of our time to a project or organisation for no pay, but in the arts industry it is a necessity that allows you to gain the practical knowledge that we are not receiving through education and develop relationships and networks for the future. Reflecting on my experiences, I would not feel confident going straight into the arts industry without doing an internship. There needs to be more communication that volunteering and internships are essential barriers to overcome in order to gain practical knowledge to successfully enter the arts industry.

How have you found your first jobs or internships? 

Panel Member 1: From my experience as intern, I felt like I was treated as if I had no experience and was a novice to even the most remedial administrative tasks. I was not treated badly, however I felt very underappreciated and undervalued.

Panel Member 2: I actually shocked my organisation with my capability. They said their previous interns were completely incompetent. The organisation had obviously been tainted by this experience. Sadly, the preconceived idea that all interns are treated badly could actually have something to do with the ability of the intern.

If you are lucky enough to be offered a job after your internship, the transition from intern to paid employee is a difficult task. It is hard to balance the previous expectations as an intern with new responsibilities of an employee. You are not expected to do all the remedial tasks that had been assigned to you previously, but in a new role, especially a junior role, there is still an element of lower level tasks you will need to do in order to prove your value and responsibility.

Have your experiences at first jobs, volunteering and internships been valuable?

Panel Member 1: I think you can draw from both negative and positive experiences in first jobs and internships. I always felt valued at my internship which motivated me to work harder and I was fine with that. I think feeling valued really affects the experience you can have as an intern. Alternatively, I see the great value of actually doing an internship. It is essentially free learning and you gain a practical skill set that you can utilise for future roles. I have also developed an understanding of internal politics, which often plays an integral role in the arts industry.

Panel Member 3: Definitely. Without my internship I would not have gotten a job in the arts. I agree whether you have a good or bad experience, both can be beneficial to your future in the arts industry. My internship allowed me to experience a variety of different roles in an organisation and from this I could determine what really interested me and if I could actually do the job.

What could be done better to provide learning and support for new arts practitioners?

Panel Member 1: Communication and more opportunities for networking within and outside of university appear to be the areas that could vastly improve learning and support.  We have come to realise there is virtually no funding, such as grants and scholarships specifically for emerging arts practitioners. How can we fully invest our time in volunteer projects and internships when we can only afford to give one day a week due to other financial commitments?

Panel Member 2: Often you have to search high and low for career advice during and after university as there is nothing to support the transition between university and the arts industry. We need more information and advice and perhaps an organisation solely dedicated to emerging arts practitioners. Many of us have found ourselves lacking direction when faced with the next step in our career and it only dawned on me after the fact the effect my internship experience has had on my career.

Where else can you get information on learning in the arts:

In January 2006 The Australian Institute of Music (AIM)  entered into discussions with Sydney Opera House (SOH) to re-launch its Master of Arts Management program as a co-production. AIM was looking for an inspiring venue that would immerse the program in a real performing arts environment, bring a community of industry professionals closer and involve SOH staff as participants and occasional guest presenters so that the program had an authentic connection with the venue. Sydney Opera House also saw itself as a place for learning and education and there was interest in integrating it into their staff professional development programs.

Paul Saintilan, a Program Director of Master of Arts Management at Sydney Opera House at Australian Institute of Music, visiting lecturer at The Glion Institute of Higher Education and adjunct professor at Webster University Switzerland has shared with us his insights on the importance of learning in the professional workplace.

Interview by Natalia Ilyukevich

How important is being involved in industry for the learning process?

It is very important on a number of levels. Firstly, we would not admit a student into the program who did not have at least two years industry experience, because otherwise they have no ‘real world’ frame of reference to which they can relate the concepts and seminar discussion. Eighty percent of students enroll part-time (the average age is 34 – very mature) and are often working in the industry, often in good jobs,  so they can relate the seminar content to their industry experience and introduce this into the seminar discussion. Secondly, the post-seminar assignments provide an opportunity to apply the theory to their working life, or a hobby project, and in doing so students personalise the content and develop a deeper understanding. The ‘Major Project’ that students must undertake (either a Research Project or Business Plan)  which can be sponsored by an arts organisation, provides a deeper opportunity for industry related learning (the Major Project serves the same function as internships do in other programs).

 What were your decisions based on when choosing the lecturers for the Master of Arts Management program?

Generally, we were after enthusiastic, passionate lecturers with deep arts industry knowledge, who could bring theory to life in a practical, relevant and motivating way. We have often asked ourselves who is the best person to present a module, the modularised structure means they could come from anywhere and have flown internationally to present (like Tim Walker from London). For example, we chose Shane Simpson for the entertainment law modules because he ticks all the boxes; he has deep music law but also multi artform experience. He has extensive experience with both non-profit and commercial organisations. He has previously worked as a University law lecturer but is also a celebrated practitioner, having established the Arts Law Centre and Simpsons Solicitors. He is also a very entertaining presenter and so can bring it all to life in an engaging way. For highly theoretical subjects we have gone for academics with a PhD to ensure the academic integrity of the modules, for others we have skewed them more towards a practitioner focus. It is a question of balance.

What contribution do you hope this course will make to the industry?

We would like to see the course promoting and encouraging best practice, the pursuit of excellence and greater professionalism and thoughtfulness in the way we approach the challenges of managing arts and entertainment businesses. We want to ensure students who graduate have what they need to make the best possible contribution to Australia’s cultural life. We also want to help bridge the gap between theory and practice, academics and practitioners, and generic business school thinking and what works in the idiosyncratic environment of arts and entertainment.

 What measures of success will you use?

One measure would clearly be graduate outcomes in terms of the contribution students eventually do make, but as we re-launched this program in 2007, it is early days. There are some tremendously impressive people who have gone through the program who I hope go onto bigger careers than I have had. I am working on a PhD with Prof Ruth Rentschler at Deakin, and so lecturers in the program are involved in research and we would like to see this bridging the academic/practitioner gap. We naturally employ other metrics in the program to ensure we are offering a high quality educational experience such as student evaluation form feedback, which have been excellent and assessment metrics. The quality of work is high and getting higher.

Recommended further information on the subject of  learning:

Photo: Sergey Konstantinov 

 After dancing with The Australian Ballet for ten years and achieving the rank of leading soloist, Lucinda Sharp went on to study psychology and became the school’s first full-time psychologist in 1991. Sharp has devised a performance psychology curriculum for students, many of whom travel from interstate or internationally and leave the security of family and friends to join the elite Melbourne-based school. Sharp spoke with arts interview about how the program prepares students for life as a professional dancer.

Interview by Heather Jennings

What is the psychology programme provided at the Australian Ballet School?

The psychology curriculum is delivered from level 3 up to graduate year. The programme incorporates performance psychology, VCE psychology and a programme called Connecting to School Community which focuses on building a respectful school community based on positive regard, a sense of security and authentic communication.  We also run programmes covering cyber safety and drug and alcohol education. While there is background theory for each topic, the programme focuses mostly on experiential learning, personal reflection and the practical application of psychological skills.

What are the benefits of performance psychology for students?

Our students are often perfectionists and high achievers and progress is their main indicator of the likelihood of succeeding (success ultimately being a job as a professional dancer). Students work physically hard six days a week in the dance studio and any worrying, anxious thoughts about progress and performance can interfere with their natural bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence.
In the midst of dancing they may get caught up thinking about ‘getting it right’, ‘not getting it wrong’, ‘not falling over’ or ‘pleasing the teacher’. Performance psychology is geared toward developing a mindset for dance that focuses on the process of dancing and clarifies the mind/body connection for the most efficient neuromuscular patterning.

What are the key personal issues faced by dancers?

Many issues are similar to those of any person wanting to achieve at a high level. For some students, no matter how much effort they put in, there can still be doubts about whether they are performing up to standard or even working hard enough – typical perfectionist thinking.

Injury can cause major concerns for dance students. While it’s a normal part of being a dancer it can be particularly devastating if the student cannot participate in classes, rehearsals or performances. This comes back to progress and the sometimes-distressing realisation that injury means they may fall behind the class in terms of progress.

Body image and body shape can also be challenging issues for dancers. The school has a nutrition programme that educates dancers about healthy attitudes to food and promotes normal physical development in the adolescent years.

How do students learn about the mental aspects of high level performance?

All dance classes, rehearsals and performances contribute towards a student’s understanding of what it takes mentally and emotionally to perform at the highest level.
In terms of stage performance, all students perform at The Victorian Arts Centre and final-year students are employed to perform corps de ballet and soloist roles with The Australian Ballet’s regional touring group The Dancers Company. The latter group of students are on the road for five to six weeks, moving venues every few days and doing one or two night stands in theatres of varying standards. This opportunity is the definitive preparation for the profession.

How do dancers become aware of their own personal development during their time at the school?

Ballet students can be very single minded in their devotion to dance. While this can be beneficial to maintaining commitment, focus and work ethic, it can also lead some dancers to develop a narrow self-concept within which they define themselves almost entirely in terms of their dance performance.  If feelings of self-worth become strongly tied to dance performance, the dancer risks emotional turmoil when faced with the prospect of not being able to participate in classes, rehearsals or performance. There can also be great difficulty making a successful transition out of dance.

Staff promote student engagement and interest in areas other than dance and encourage students to place more value on who they are rather than what they do (dance). It is vital for healthy emotional development that young dancers are recognised and valued as people, not just as dancers.

www.australianballetschool.com.au

Tara Morelos is the Director of dLux Media Arts (dLux), one of Australia’s longest running screen and media arts organisations. dLux works with a range of artists, writers & curators, to present projects from the screening of single channel video art to multi-channel installations and interactive and locative media for mobile devices. Morelos worked as a graphic designer in the corporate sector before going on to study Sculpture, Performance and Installation at Sydney College of the Arts. Morelos is also the Director of Sculpture in the Vineyards.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

How important is the role of learning at dLux?

dLux is organisationally familiar with change, shape shifting to meet the needs of its community and gaining enormous social capital in the process. As staff we are constantly learning and meeting the challenges of working, firstly within the not for profit arts sector and secondly within an organisation tasked with being cutting edge. It’s very hands on and particularly with our regional partners we had taken on the informal role as educators within an emerging field of exhibition practice as galleries began wanting to show more video and interactive works within their programs.

dLux has a strong emphasis on touring and rural education initiatives, what learning strategies do you put in place when approaching communities with limited exposure to digital media practice or broadly the arts sector?

By demystifying simple technologies for galleries and regional audiences through delivering a well supported touring program of media-orientated works we began to better understand the needs of the sector.

By using digital storytelling and technology we found a way to strongly influence the way people see themselves and break down existing barriers to learning. As a specialist media arts organisation, dLux is able to utilise an array of digital technologies to capture the imagination of new audiences putting the web, open source software and other information and communication technologies (ICT) to cost effective use in regional communities. In 2011 dLux became a social enterprise of the iStreet Lab phenomenon.  Working with mervin Jarman, Jamaican community art activist and human computer interface expert we built the iStreet dLux Lab. As part of the dStudio program, the iStreet dLux Lab extends its reach into the exploration of creative art practice for artists and communities alike.

Do you think that screen/ digital media art is represented well in the arts sector, in terms of awareness and funding?

In my experience, there is a general reluctance in the world of contemporary art to engage meaningfully with digital and new media art practice, social networking, or gaming. Yet these are some of the largest and fastest-growing areas of culture today. There is a tendency to largely dismiss media arts without fully appreciating the theoretical richness or conceptual parallels it has with more established art forms. Since the dismantling of New Media Arts Board in 2004, the Inter Arts Office of the Australia Council is doing its best on a very small budget to encourage the development of new media and multi-platform culture. It can be a problematic area for these kinds of agencies due to its potential to straddle the art and industry divide. dLux has often fallen through these cracks. We have now begun to look more consistently outside the arts funding pool, though gratefully acknowledge the continued core support of our partners Arts NSW.

dLux was established in the 1980’s under another name The Super 8 – Film Group, how has the organisation changed from then to now?

dLux Media Arts remains a small and resilient organisation with a clearly defined role within the Australian cultural sector known for supporting and developing risky projects in an experimental environment. We retain a direct link to our maverick experimental screen origins as the Sydney Super-8 Film Group, whose films constituted a construction of a particular social and political memory of a specific historical time period, 1980-1990.  We have an archive of every work shown since the 1980s through the 90s and up to recent projects including digital versions of films, lists of all the screenings and works, all the writings and artists details from the last 30 years.

What are some upcoming projects and goals for dLux?

We recently received an Unlocking Australia’s Potential science communication grant for dLab, our regional access and skills development program. Over three years and four primary regional locations, we will be working predominantly with young women from culturally and linguistically diverse and Aboriginal backgrounds to engage in research and science activities. Using local culturally relevant resources and an informal creative methodology, participants will create their own mobile multi media dLab for community use. We have ambitious plans to further boost and diversify our funding, increase our audiences, consolidate our brand by offering new services on the commercial market. By maximising the talents of our artist communities we plan to move thoughtfully into servicing a growing demand within the commercial sector for authentic cultural products in app development and exhibition management. The future is bright!

www.dlux.org.au

Steve Pozel is the director of Object, Australia’s leading centre for design. His career in the arts spans some 30 years beginning in small artist run and regional galleries before moving on to become director of Canada’s most significant contemporary arts centre The Power Plant. Following a business trip to Australia he was offered a position at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art where he worked for 2 years before being appointed as director of Object in 2000. Now in his 12th year as director at Object, Steve kindly sat down for a chat with arts interview about learning and its role in the workplace.

Interview by Vanessa Anthea Macris

Could you describe Object in its current form and where you envision it in 3 years?

The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Object as an organisation. One of the key motivations for me moving forward over the last few years has been the creation and implementation of our brave, bold vision for the positioning of Object in the future. Our vision is not just a 3-4 year business plan but rather a strategy for Object to be the most relevant of its kind for 2015. This has given me the scope to work with my management team and to talk to over 150 people around Australia in finding out what elements would really make for a dynamic centre of design. Out of this process we have created the 2015 vision which we have been using as a basis to develop all exhibition, creative program, educational, digital, community and touring content. Every decision from here on in is being tailored to get us towards the 2015 vision and the kind of centre we want to become.

Learning is a characteristic of an adaptive organisation. With this in mind what does Object do to support the continued learning of its staff?

I’d say that we run Object like a design laboratory. Every single staff member at Object whether you’re an administrator right through to a producer of creative programs has an almost equal opportunity to experiment, take risks and prototype various projects in the organisation. I’d consider Object one of the most fertile and innovative learning spaces because we think that if we are going to be a place about innovative ideas and concepts that will have an impact on the future of peoples lives, then that’s the territory that we as a group have to be living and breathing. For me this is one of the most amazing jobs I’ve ever had. During my 12 years at Object I’ve been on one of the greatest single learning curves I’ve ever been on and that’s the kind of job I want.

How important is continued learning in the workplace and why?

I think it’s absolutely essential. If there is any organisation that wants to move forward in a progressive and innovative way it has to be the absolute core of what you do. I also think that it’s about holding retention of really good staff, as it’s important to keep teaching and training staff members so that they feel that they’re growing and developing their skills. Continued learning in the workplace is about making staff members feel comfortable that they’re learning things that can be adapted to a whole range of circumstances post their life within the organisation. At the same time its important to have the staff members recognise how very special it is to be gaining new skills and having them wanting to stay with the organisation.

Do you feel that the development of staff is a high priority in the arts sector?

I think that we are very privileged sector because we attract incredibly passionate, dynamic and hugely creative people. A lot of other sectors, including the business sector are looking at the arts and see a sector that with very little makes huge leaps and bounds. Fundamentally, this comes down to the people behind the organisation. Overall, I think that the arts sector does a very good job but I think that it could be doing an even more brilliant job in creating even greater benchmarks for other industries to look to. Innately, we do some very good things but I think that there needs to be a greater level of training within the arts of how to leverage off what we already do so well.

What are the priorities for public programs at Object in terms of education?

We have huge plans and priorities! In fact we just spent 3 hours this morning on that very topic and we probably spend a good 3 – 5 hours every week as a team looking at that as part of our project called Design Emergency, which has been in pilot phase for the last 12-18 months. Design Emergency in a nutshell has seen us work with various stakeholders from universities and schools to the NSW Department of Education in taking design thinking as a process and applying it in an innovative way to look at problem solving. The whole basis of the program is about raising the capacity of kids in schools to be able to deal with issues around them in a much more direct and hands on manner. We’re basically giving them the skills of a designer and telling students that you don’t need to use these skills to design an object or building but that you can use these skills to re-design something that’s not working in your school, home or community.

object.com.au

Photo: Sergey Konstantinov 

 After dancing with The Australian Ballet for ten years and achieving the rank of leading soloist, Lucinda Sharp went on to study psychology and became the school’s first full-time psychologist in 1991. Sharp has devised a performance psychology curriculum for students, many of whom travel from interstate or internationally and leave the security of family and friends to join the elite Melbourne-based school. Sharp spoke with arts interview about how the program prepares students for life as a professional dancer.

Interview by Heather Jennings

What is the psychology programme provided at the Australian Ballet School?

The psychology curriculum is delivered from level 3 up to graduate year. The programme incorporates performance psychology, VCE psychology and a programme called Connecting to School Community which focuses on building a respectful school community based on positive regard, a sense of security and authentic communication.  We also run programmes covering cyber safety and drug and alcohol education. While there is background theory for each topic, the programme focuses mostly on experiential learning, personal reflection and the practical application of psychological skills.

What are the benefits of performance psychology for students?

Our students are often perfectionists and high achievers and progress is their main indicator of the likelihood of succeeding (success ultimately being a job as a professional dancer). Students work physically hard six days a week in the dance studio and any worrying, anxious thoughts about progress and performance can interfere with their natural bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence.
In the midst of dancing they may get caught up thinking about ‘getting it right’, ‘not getting it wrong’, ‘not falling over’ or ‘pleasing the teacher’. Performance psychology is geared toward developing a mindset for dance that focuses on the process of dancing and clarifies the mind/body connection for the most efficient neuromuscular patterning.

What are the key personal issues faced by dancers?

Many issues are similar to those of any person wanting to achieve at a high level. For some students, no matter how much effort they put in, there can still be doubts about whether they are performing up to standard or even working hard enough – typical perfectionist thinking.

Injury can cause major concerns for dance students. While it’s a normal part of being a dancer it can be particularly devastating if the student cannot participate in classes, rehearsals or performances. This comes back to progress and the sometimes-distressing realisation that injury means they may fall behind the class in terms of progress.

Body image and body shape can also be challenging issues for dancers. The school has a nutrition programme that educates dancers about healthy attitudes to food and promotes normal physical development in the adolescent years.

How do students learn about the mental aspects of high level performance?

All dance classes, rehearsals and performances contribute towards a student’s understanding of what it takes mentally and emotionally to perform at the highest level.
In terms of stage performance, all students perform at The Victorian Arts Centre and final-year students are employed to perform corps de ballet and soloist roles with The Australian Ballet’s regional touring group The Dancers Company. The latter group of students are on the road for five to six weeks, moving venues every few days and doing one or two night stands in theatres of varying standards. This opportunity is the definitive preparation for the profession.

How do dancers become aware of their own personal development during their time at the school?

Ballet students can be very single minded in their devotion to dance. While this can be beneficial to maintaining commitment, focus and work ethic, it can also lead some dancers to develop a narrow self-concept within which they define themselves almost entirely in terms of their dance performance.  If feelings of self-worth become strongly tied to dance performance, the dancer risks emotional turmoil when faced with the prospect of not being able to participate in classes, rehearsals or performance. There can also be great difficulty making a successful transition out of dance.

Staff promote student engagement and interest in areas other than dance and encourage students to place more value on who they are rather than what they do (dance). It is vital for healthy emotional development that young dancers are recognised and valued as people, not just as dancers.

www.australianballetschool.com.au

 

This month arts interview shifts focus to Learning- education and expansion. This is one of our most exciting set of interviews to date, with a fantastically diverse range of interview subjects discussing continued learning in workplaces, training academies and public programs. This month also sees arts interview launch its first ever live talk as part of VIVID Ideas at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. We kick off with Lisa Cahill from the Australian Design Alliance.

The Australian Design Alliance (AdA) was formed in September 2010 to bring all the professional associations within design together under one umbrella. 12 members are part of the group, ranging from Australian Graphic Design Association, the Australian Institute of Architects to Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia. All members are national bodies, and the AdA covers approximately 80,000 designers across the country from a range of disciplines.

Lisa’s role is threefold; to lobby the federal government for a national design policy, to advocate around design education across all levels and to profile the design sector through case studies and activities. She spoke to arts interview on the importance of learning and the current opportunities out in the market for professional development.

 Interview by Kim Goodwin

How important is continued learning for those in the design industry, and where can such opportunities be found?

 For all of us continued learning is really important. A lot of the work that designers do is collaborative, so they are constantly expanding their knowledge as they develop designs. As the industry moves and shifts, and technology changes continued learning is crucial to take advantage of all opportunities.

There are formal options through art, design and architecture schools around the country, tertiary and continuing education choices, professional development through associations and other learning practices throughout the field. It’s hard to generalise, but many in the design sectors, such as industrial or graphic designers are in small to medium enterprises, so often they aren’t as equipped to provide the level of development as larger organisations. SME professional development is generally available through associations such as the Design Institute of Australia. So wherever you are, there are various opportunities, but the most powerful learning is often on the job.

You’re about to facilitate an online learning program through the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA), can you tell us a little bit about that?

 NAVA Connect is NAVA’s first venture into online learning for which I’ve been asked to facilitate one of four programs. The course is called “Expanding Your Career” and is essentially for artists and designers who are looking for ways to take their career a step further.  It focuses on opportunities in local government such as public art or community cultural development, product development, manufacturing and marketing, and international opportunities. The aim is to help extend practice in ways that are beyond the individual studio to grasp available options and develop alternative income generation.

Conducting online learning is relatively new in the arts sector, what benefits can you see?

 One of the benefits is flexibility – you can access and do online programs whenever you want. You don’t have to turn up to a physical location at a particular time, but rather make it fit around your work commitments or practice. It has also a lower cost of delivery so it can be offered to participants at a much lesser rate. Online learning opens you up to a network of people that may not have been accessible before, where new ideas generation can occur, particularly if you work as an individual artist.

The online learning enables you to come to grips with technology, in ways that may not have been done in your career so far. It really throws you into a technical environment, but one that is gentle, easy to use, supported, and opens up access to a range of online resources. Finally, teaching new ways of working with people provides an ability to collaborate with others in a virtual environment, which in the current market is a great asset.

You’ve had a very successful career in a number of high profile organisations, where have you personally found your best learning opportunities?

 Aside from formal learning, my most significant experience has been on the job.  Learning by doing, learning from collaborating with others and learning from mistakes. So, looking at how they operate, view the lessons and establish my own working patterns.

One thing someone once said to me has really stuck in my mind. Very early on in my career, when I was working within a government department in Canberra, I sat down with my manager to discuss the extension of a program I was working on. It was something I felt was absolutely impossible to do, and he said to me “Nothing is impossible, you’ve just got to work out a way of doing it.” That was really valuable to me, to say to myself “You are right, it may not be the best way, or the way I want to go, but we can do this.” It made me see that I needed to shift my thinking and to tackle the problem in a different way.

www.australiandesignalliance.com

 

SafARI is the ‘unofficial’ fringe exhibition that accompanies the Biennale of Sydney, showcasing emerging artists in multiple artist-run initiative spaces during the Biennale’s opening weeks. SafARI is intended to be co-curated, two curators – one incoming and one outgoing. With its unique co-curator model, Danielle Robson, one of the current co-curators, discusses the model’s ups and downs, and how it has impacted her learning.

Interview by Iris SiYi Shen

What role does an artist run initiative (ARI), such as SafARI play in the development of its collaborators?

I can really only answer this question based on my experience with SafARI. SafARI was ‘officially’ recognised as an artist run initiative in the lead up to the 2010 exhibition, although the model and intention behind the organisation has been largely the same since it began in 2004.

SafARI’s collaborators are emerging artists, emerging arts workers, other ARI’s, emerging designers and emerging curators. Essentially anyone who wants to get involved, in whatever capacity, can contribute and become a collaborator.

In this way, the role of SafARI is to provide a place for experimentation, professional development and to build and expand on professional networks. It also shines a light on the grass-roots of the arts world at a time when the global arts’ focus is on Sydney during the Biennale.

Explain how the SafARI’s co-curator model works?

Although SafARI was founded in 2004, the emerging co-curator model was first initiated in the lead up to SafARI 2010.

Founded by Lisa Corsi and Margaret Farmer as a vehicle for them to develop their own professional experience, SafARI was also developed in response to an identified need for other activity to take place in the city during the Biennale. They co-curated the inaugural SafARI exhibition held in 2006. The idea for the co-curator model was hatched by Lisa Corsi at some point between 2007 and 2009 and was formally introduced in 2009 with a call for submissions to co-curate SafARI 2010.

The co-curator model builds on Lisa and Margaret’s original intention for SafARI to be a platform for emerging arts professionals to get a start. Having achieved that for their own careers, the doors have now been opened for up coming arts professionals to grow and learn through their experience and involvement with SafARI.

I came on board as the first incoming emerging curator working with Lisa Corsi to co-curate SafARI 2010. Lisa has since stepped down from a curatorial role on SafARI and Presides the SafARI board. Late last year we put out a call for co-curator applications and Nina Stromqvist was selected as the new incoming emerging co-curator to work with me on planning and delivering SafARI 2012. After 2012, I will step down and another call for co-curator submissions will be put out to find a new person to work with Nina on SafARI 2014 – and so on and so forth.

The beauty of the model is that a level of organisational memory remains intact, as one half of the curatorial team carries the experience and lessons learnt from the previous SafARI. Yet each new co-curator brings new ideas and energy to the collaborative mix. In this way, SafARI remains fresh, current and adheres to the spirit of experimentation that is at the heart of SafARI.

Co-curators can come from anywhere in Australia, provided they are willing to be in Sydney at certain critical points to make it workable – particularly the last few months. And while situations can understandably change over the course of four years, in accepting the role of SafARI co-curator there is an expectation; a hope that an individual commits to the role for two rounds of SafARI.

What challenges have you faced in your role?

I think the challenges I experienced as co-curator are common to many people working in the arts: limited time, budgets and resources combined with big ideas and aspirations. SafARI is not my day job, nor is it the day job of anyone else involved – i.e. the SafARI Board, the artists, designers, arts workers, or people involved with the ARIs. SafARI is what everyone fits into their spare time around all their other work/life commitments. In the face of minimal time, I just did what I could, where I could, to make sure things happened. For example, I drew up floor plans in my diary on the bus on the way to and from work. I also remember tapping out email responses on my iPhone to an interview that had a tight deadline whilst sitting in my graduation ceremony.

How does it compare to other learning models you have experienced to date?

There are lots of excellent opportunities out there for motivated emerging artists, curators and arts workers to gain valuable learning experiences. I think what makes this model unique is the incoming/outgoing collaboration that happens each year between two appointed co-curators - two individuals who have more than likely never worked together or even met before.

It enables shared learning, insight through different points of view and forces a negotiation of working with someone else to jointly deliver a project you are both proud of.

I cannot compare the SafARI co-curator mentorship to a similar learning experience I have had myself, but I can attest to what a remarkable and invaluable experience it has been. Its existence is a wonderful legacy for Lisa Corsi to have left to SafARI.

Organisations that support learning in the arts can be found below:

Savita Apte is an Art Historian specialising in Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art. She began her career in Sotheby’s where she was instrumental in founding the Sotheby Prize for Contemporary Indian Art. She is a director of Art Dubai, as well as a regular lecturer at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS) and the Sotheby’s Institute.

Interview by Shivangi Ambani

What are the best personal strategies you have put in place to gain skills in your career?

The best strategy I have used is hands-on-learning, particularly from someone with a lot of experience in the area and that can act as a mentor. Those have been the most fruitful and memorable of my learning experiences.

 How have you helped to develop those around you?  Do you mentor and what value do you gain from that?

I went into mentoring without knowing it, and have developed deep relationships in the process. I supervise several research students and keep in touch with those I have mentored. They may sometimes correct the fallacies that I may develop over time and bring fresh and innovative ideas on board.

What role have you learnt from the most – the most challenging or the one that you have felt most out of your comfort zone?  

Perhaps the most challenging role for me so far has been the one of a PhD student (Savita is a doctoral candidate with SOAS, studying modernism in Indian art). I have been out of the student mode for so many years. Particularly accessing electric journals and e-libraries is not something that is very easy for me. Some of my Master’s students have helped me navigate through these virtual references.

Do you feel the arts industry offers enough in the way of professional development?  

The industry can perhaps offer more, it has so far been a contained industry, where galleries are handed down through families. However, these spaces are being reformed and renegotiated. Certainly auction houses, like Sotheby’s, are offering courses in arts management and arts business and there will be more development in the years to come. The industry can and should do more.

How different is the educational process when you are speaking to your students at SOAS or Sotheby’s versus the audience at Art Dubai’s educational program? What kind of programming has generated most interest at Art Dubai?

The student at SOAS is expecting more focused information and is much more receptive and critical of the information. When catering to a general audience, you have to provide all kinds of information and different levels of engagement. One-on-one conversations with the artists have generated the most interest. People were interested in understanding how the creative mind works and how that is translated into a visual medium.

Interested in further learning?

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