Education, professional development and lifelong learning

Image: Esther Anatolitis at NAVA's roundtable discussion on commissioning art in public space, RMIT, Melbourne 2018. Photo by Daniel Gardeazabal.

It’s that time of year when we should all be winding down – but instead we accelerate, trying to cram as much as we can into what’s left of the year before it ends. 

It can be so hard to zoom back out to the big picture: you, your thinking and your future. 

Last month the latest Countess Report was released, and we were thrilled to see it get such impactful media coverage all over Australia, including a front page story, a dedicated editorial, and this superb piece by Walkley-award-winning critic Jane Howard. There’s so much good news there – so much positive change. Congratulations to the artist-runs, the contemporary and public galleries, the prizes and biennales, who’ve taken such confident leaps forward since the first Countess Report.

We also released our draft Pay Standards for feedback, and after a great deal of useful but highly divergent feedback we’ll be resetting that consultation in early 2020. Big thank you to everyone who has contributed to this work so far. Here’s some more detail on that – and in the meantime, the current Fees & Wages Schedule (Chapter 7 of the Code of Practice) continues to apply. 

That dual focus on gender and industrial equity is as much a focus on data as it is a focus on ethics. It’s about how we act on our values. It’s about how we look after one another. And it’s also about that personal investment in the criticality and context that fuels what we do. 

How do you keep yourself engaged with current thinking in your field? Are you making the time to attend public programs at galleries, or visit another artist in their studio, or go to a conference, or listen to a podcast? Maybe even enrol in something more formal?

Last week’s ACUADS Conference brought together Australia’s art and design schools on the theme of engagement, looking at what the teachers and researchers of today need to make possible for the artists and designers of the future. At the same time, Artstate brought leading regional arts voices to Tamworth, with sessions led by First Nations thinkers and makers framing three days of discussion and exchange. Both events attracted artists, artsworkers, academics and government colleagues for an intensive few days, offering many different ways of learning. 

Increasingly, galleries and other presenting organisations are reframing their education and public programs around learning – learning as an activity, an exchange, a life-long process. WA’s Art on the Move has an Act-Belong-Commit program for all ages, critically responding to exhibitions while also promoting good mental health. The MCA’s Creative Learning offers individual and group programs, resources and access to their Lewis Library and Artist Research Centre.

Learning never ends, and planning it into our weekly or annual program is critical to the development of our ethics, our practice and our careers. As we make our year-end plans, let’s also look to the kinds of things we’d like to achieve in 2020 – not just specific shows and projects and work things, but our own critical and professional development. The role of learning and reflection in our lives.

Where to begin? There’s a world of goodness on the NAVA website alone. Listen back on a NAVA podcast. Flip through one of our Online Learning resources. Be inspired by one of the Artist Files.

When you find that pace accelerating, stop for a little minute and find that thought that’s been circulating around your mind. Unpack it, articulate it, and really invest in its development. Where will your thinking take you next?