Building Bridges: University Art Galleries as Agents of Community Engagement


The relationship between Universities and their host community has often been problematic, but over the past decade, since the Howard Government established a more rigorous climate of accountability, universities have been required to embrace community engagement along with teaching & learning and research & development as part of their contract.

Building links with the cities they share and contributing to the cultural life of that community, while offering a critical examination of its intertwining histories, is becoming an increasingly important role adopted for many university galleries.

University art galleries serve many communities: their host university, most importantly: the arts community in general; the expanded national and international communities, and the local community in which they reside. While their fundamental service agreement is with the university, their role in documenting and interpreting those local histories, attitudes and responses, and their additional role as a catalyst and collaborator in generating new work, must be accommodated within that primary contract.

The expectations of these other communities are increasing and university galleries are aiming to meet those agendas while ensuring that the core responsibilities of a professional gallery located within an educational institution are not compromised.

Download Building Bridges: University Art Galleries as Agents of Community Engagement (75.97 KB)


Ted Snell is Professor of Contemporary Art and Dean of Art, John Curtin Centre, Curtin University of Technology, Perth Western Australia, where he has responsibility for the John Curtin Gallery. He was chair of the Australian Council of University Art & Design Schools (ACUADS) from 1999-2002, chair of Artbank, the federal government’s art leasing agency, from 2000–2006, and a board member of the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) until 2005. In 2003, he chaired the Premier’s Fashion Industry Taskforce in Western Australia and in 2004 he was chair of the Western Australian Government’s ‘Living Treasures’ Committee. He is currently chair of Museums Australia, Art Craft Design Special Interest Group (ACDSIG), and a board member of the Biennale of Electronic Arts, Perth (BEAP).