This paper will examine how university art and design education can engage productively and profoundly with community. Taking as its key case study the Treatment Public Art project developed by Deakin University in tandem with Melbourne Water and the City of Wyndham in Melbourne’s west in 2015 and 2017, this study will outline the assorted ways in which profound and ongoing dialogue and collaboration with a specific community and its varied constituencies can, and should, be core business of tertiary creative arts study. It will argue that such a pan-disciplinary partnership model not only provides professional practice pathways for students, but achieves a social and cultural value that meshes research, teaching and community-building in mutually beneficial ways.
As a riposte to the often erroneous, if persistent, accusation that art and design education does not prepare students for ‘real world’ encounters and engagement, the Treatment project has sought to build cultural resilience through dialogue, creative expression and collaboration. This paper will examine how such a project serves to build a complex skillset in students that combines dexterity across art making, curatorial practice, project management and socially-engaged community engagement strategies.