In five words, describe your place in the sector.
On the outside, looking in.
What first drew you to the sector i.e. Do you have a particular memory of a moment that got you hooked?
There are a couple of memories. One was in high school art class when we started to look at the cultural frames of art works. We were encouraged to learn all we could about the artist, the era, the factors that led to each painting or work. As someone who’s always loved stories and the romance of history, I was completely swept up in this art history research.
This led me to study Art history at uni. I lived 2 hours away by train from a decent art history library and I would make the journey at least once a week to the Art Gallery of NSW’s archives. Just sitting in the library space at the bottom of the famous gallery was enough to tickle me. I would read books, and sepia toned letters and old articles all day and forget what time it was, often missing the train home.
What challenges have you faced in your career so far?
Many. My first museum job was with an out-of-touch board, an impossible job description and little pay. Second job was for little pay and under a very stressed, difficult and micromanaging boss. Then I got a position in a regional gallery who didn’t have any work for me to do – it was a waste of time for all concerned. Then I took a position in the same local council (in a grants administration role). Afterwards I went for a position in a regional gallery again and the position went to the Gallery Manager’s wife.
I’ve always felt that people haven’t understood or valued the skills learned from the Masters I studied. Having said that I’ve used the skills to pave my own way, developing my own curatorial projects, wrestling my way into getting my writing published and paid for, avoiding working with councils – even the regional galleries - as they haven’t valued what I’ve been working on. I’ve found work in connected areas and aim to engender a deep regard for the work the sector does, without being afraid to be critical of it where due.
Has anything or anyone in particular provided you with support?
In commencing my Ph.D. I have spoken with some pretty amazing Gallery Directors and Educators who have been very generous in answering my questions for my study. Through this, I’ve started to feel some support for the work I’d like to keep doing – that is, research into the staffing of museums and galleries. Mind you, a couple of major institutions were pretty quick to shut down my request for interview, deeming my research’s scope as not currently relevant.
I’ve received wonderful support from my Ph.D. supervisor and from others who work in the independent arts administration space or the not for profit gallery space. What I’ve learnt is that the sector is made up of lots of individuals. You just need to find those souls who you can connect with to receive that support.
It feels really nice that I’m maybe at that stage of being able to offer support to others too. I hope to do that with a lot of heart, because I feel like everyone in the sector could do with a big hug and cup of nourishing tea.
What do you think people at your own level (emerging etc) bring to the sector?
We’re a mixed bag – jacks of all trades – ready to throw ourselves into anything. We have a heart for research and telling good, relevant stories and also the agility to combine that with an understanding of systems, project management principles, digital communications and innovative exhibition presentation ideas – and more.
We’re livewires, ready to take risks and we’re keen as beavers, which I think the sector is sometime a bit scared of, but we’re not to be feared at all. Our energy just needs to be directed into the right things and the sector needs to be ready to be shaken by us a bit. It’ll all work out. Being shaken is good for the soul.
What is a positive change you would like to see in the sector?
I would like to see:
The education sector and industry communicate in a more meaningful way.
The space of emerging professionals to be seen as a different kind of ‘arrival.’ As the sexy, freedom zone where exciting stuff happens.
The museum and gallery sector initiate partnerships with emergent beings. For them to reach out to independent curators and administrators.
Non-artists who work in museums and galleries to be just as valued in the sector.
What is your karaoke song?
Haha! Well, I’ve been known to sing Christina Aguilera’s Genie in a Bottle, but I’d love to be known for singing anything of the Baby Animals. I karaoke with myself and their songs all the time