Art School Galleries: Relevance in the 21st Century?

Dr. Mary Knights
2012 Conference

In 2006 the SASA Gallery, AAD, UniSA, was strategically repositioned as a research facility which supported the development of new and experimental contemporary art, design, writing and curatorial practices, and actively engaged with teaching and learning. The SASA Gallery integrates arts industry and educational models to develop programs, resources and curricula that are relevant to the field; aligned to university research and education policies, and provide opportunities for students to engage in research-led, experiential and practice based learning.

There is a growing body of literature engaging with the shifting role galleries play in the education of artists and curators. Rather than presenting exhibitions in front of which students are unchallenged and unengaged, an emerging trend is the shift from educational programming being attached as an addendum to exhibition programs, to educational methods, programs and processes being integrated into the gallery structures and curatorial frameworks. As Paul O’Neil and Mick Wilson assert in Curating and the Educational Turn, ‘curating increasingly operates as an expanded educational praxis.’ There is a sophisticated role to be played by galleries in the university environment and the need to recognise that ‘debates and discursive practices’ often merely considered to be collateral to exhibitions…have become central to contemporary practice…increasingly, they are framed in terms of education, research, knowledge production and learning.’

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About the author

Mary Knights, Director, SASA Gallery, UniSA, is a writer, curator and academic. She was awarded a PhD by the University of Tasmania for her thesis titled On the Brink of the Abyss, which focused on the nihilistic tendencies perceived by critic J.K. Huysmans in the work of key Symbolist artists. In 2010. Knights has worked in the Australian art sector for over fifteen years and has held arts management, curatorial and academic positions in Tasmania, West Australia and South Australia. She has curated many exhibitions, authored Irrunytju Arts based on twenty months working in the field, and written numerous essays and critical reviews on contemporary art.