2007 Conference


Innovation, Leadership, Impact

Co-hosted by the College of Fine Arts , University of New South Wales
& Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney

26-28 September 2007

Contemporary Australian Arts make a special and substantial contribution to the health and wealth of the nation. Their impact is felt at home, in the Asia Pacific region and worldwide across the broad range of innovation in art, design and new media. Australia’s art schools are the drivers of this success. Together they have an excellent track record in producing internationally renowned practitioners, many of whom increasingly travel from overseas specifically drawn by the attraction of the leading edge artist and designer education on offer. A Research Masters is the minimum qualification that most aspire to, with increasing numbers of our brightest artists and designers, theorists and art educators completing Doctorates. This success is testament to the high caliber of students the sector attracts. It is also unthinkable without the central contributions of staff within university art and design departments, schools and faculties who are leaders in their own areas of research practice. As in any other discipline, research-led teaching is crucial to its continued renewal and cultural impact. And now, more than ever, the leadership and innovation of our artist- academics and theorists impacts significantly and, often, directly on the end users of art, design and new media.

In the past the sector has found it difficult to secure broadly based and significant research grants, especially from the Australian Research Council, although there have been notable exceptions, some of which are outlined in this publication. However as the discipline gains further in confidence and experience, an upward trend in the number and scale of funded projects is inevitable. Contrary to popular belief, contemporary arts research is not some side event to ‘real’ research. University based artists, designers, art historians and art educators are leaders in their fields. They are making a difference, inspiring, altering and moulding the culture of the nation, and contributing to the global economy like any other research community.

This report gives a taste of how the sector’s achievement is being shaped across a range of its activities: from substantial research centres exploring advanced digital media; to innovative individual PhD projects; from relational experiments in space; to the advancement of visualisation materials, techniques and processes; from artists working with history, memory and site; to the role that art and design plays in the formation and representation of identity and culture; and not surprisingly, to an examination of creative practice itself as a research methodology.

The Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS) represents all of the nation’s leading tertiary Visual Arts education providers, enabling a focus for collegial communication and a high level forum for the ongoing development of best practice in the sector across the areas of research, teaching and service, indeed, providing leadership to our industries.

It might be that we are the custodians of a still maturing research culture, in comparison to the much longer established ones in science, medicine and the humanities. However it is a very vibrant, necessary and fast developing culture whose nurturing is the responsibility of all stakeholders, not just ourselves and the institutions in which we work, but also government and its research support agencies.

Put simply, the nature and quality of our personal and collective experiences, not to mention the underlying strength of the creative economies of the future, will depend increasingly upon the viability and impact, locally and globally, of our artists and designers. The Australian Higher Education sector carries both a lead role and a primary responsibility for guaranteeing the success of this endeavour.