What can we say about the world out there?


Over the last five to ten years Professional Practices has become a required subject of study in most Australian university visual arts programs. If not a required subject, it is up there as an identified elective study. NAVA and ACUADS teamed up in 2001 to produce a range of topics, outlines and tutorial tasks for use by tertiary art lecturers to ensure that information given to students ‘accurately reflects the realities of the industry…’ These were available on-line from 2003 and revised again in 2007. The topics identified are very appropriate and the content is thorough and concisely organised.

With the increase of commissioned reports and research projects into the visual arts and the widespread development of cultural policies, the problem is certainly not the availability of accurate, relevant information (as it once was), however, I have come to believe there is another problem. From viewing university course outlines Professional Practices appears to be taught in very similar ways across art schools — general issue discussions complemented by visiting lectures on specific small business and art sector topics.

I have been teaching Professional Practices in Fine Art at QCA since it was introduced as required study eight years ago. In each year, I have looked for a different focus or central emphasis drawn from local or national events or developments, or changes in arts policies, or new publications. Each year I have shuffled the guest lecturers eliminating poor presenters and identifying better presenters. However, on reflection I have serious doubts as to whether this method of subject presentation is the most effective way to impart knowledge and professionally prepare students for the range of opportunities in the sector.

This year (through a glitch in the system), I have a small group of 15 students enrolled in Professional Practices. It was a chance to embark on a very different way to deliver the subject. In this proposed paper I would like to discuss the approach I’ve used and to look at some of the results from the very open-ended assessment items I’ve set the students.

Download What can we say about the world out there? (53.20 KB)


Susan Ostling is a Senior Lecturer Fine Art, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. Susan is currently undertaking doctoral studies investigating recent changes in curatorial practice, focusing particularly on modes of collaboration between curators and artists.