Is arts advocacy working? Panel Vernon Ah Kee, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, Kelli McCluskey, facilitator Dr Pippa Dickson

The panel session, 'Is arts advocacy working? What roles can/do individuals and organisations play?', includes Vernon Ah Kee, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE and Kelli McCluskey, with Dr Pippa Dickson as facilitator. This session was recorded at NAVA's Future/Forward summit on Friday 7 November 2014 at Carriageworks, Sydney.

Is arts advocacy working? What role can artists can play in instigating debate and socio-political change in contemporary Australian society and the arts sector itself?

Born in Far North Queensland, Vernon Ah Kee is a conceptual artist and a founding member of the Brisbane-based proppaNOW artists’ collective. He has a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Hons) at the Queensland College of Art, Brisbane. Vernon’s work critiques Australian popular culture, particularly the dichotomy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal societies and cultures. His art practice consists of video, 3D installation, photography, digital design, painting, printmaking, and drawing. Vernon represented Australia at the 53rd Venice Biennale in the group exhibition Once Removed (2009) and his work was featured in exhibitions such as Culture Warriors: National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia (2007); Revolutions-Forms That Turn: 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008); Figuring Landscapes at the Tate Modern, London, UK (2008); proppaNOW: Putsch at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide (2010) and proppaNOW: The Black See at KickArts Contemporary Arts, Cairns (2011); UnDisclosed: the
2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia (2012); Theatre of the World (2012) at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart; Volume One: MCA Collection at Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2012); Everything Falls Apart, Part II (2012) at Artspace, Sydney; Insurgence at the Museum of Australian Democracy (2013); Australia at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2013); My Country: I still call Australia home, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2013); Sakahan: 1st International Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada (2013). Vernon Ah Kee is represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane, Australia.

What does success look like? What strategies can be used in the future to make change?
Dr Pippa Dickson is the CEO of Glenorchy Art & Sculpture Park (GASP!) and an independent Designer. She commenced working at GASP in 2008 and she has been responsible for developing and implementing strategic priorities and raising significant investment from all tiers of government for infrastructure as well as managing the design processes and private fundraising for art projects. She works closely with the community, civic, arts and business leaders on developing a shared vision and implementing the critical steps to achieve it. Pippa has worked as a project manager and consultant in the private and public sectors for more than 15 years and has designs held in private and public collections including the Tasmanian Design Centre, Henry Jones Art Hotel and MONA. Pippa has a PhD in Fine Arts, Furniture Design, and a BA in Political Science. She regularly contributes to art, craft and design journals, has been a peer reviewer for Craft Australia’s craft + design enquiry and a judge for the Tasmanian Design Awards (2005 to present) among other awards locally and nationally. She is currently Chair of Design Tasmania, Co-Chair of the National Craft Initiative and Director of the National Association for Visual Artists (NAVA).

How can the arts sector be its own best advocate?
Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE has been Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art since 1999. After negotiating a new funding model to allow the MCA to flourish, she has consolidated the MCA’s position as one of Sydney’s best loved institutions, engaging audiences with living artists. A bold, new and significantly expanded MCA opened in 2012. The redevelopment transformed the MCA, providing spacious new galleries including an entire floor dedicated to the MCA Collection; a state-of-the-art National Centre for Creative Learning; public spaces that embrace one of the world’s most beautiful locations and a series of site-specific artists’ commissions. Macgregor’s contribution to the visual arts has been recognised with an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2011 and the 2011 Australia Council Visual Arts Medal. In 2012 she received the IMAGinE Museums and Galleries NSW Individual Achievement Award. In 2013 she was named by the Australian Financial Review as one of Australia’s 100 top women of Influence. She is a member of the Advisory Board for the UTS Business School. She is also a member of the NSW Australia Day Advisory Council and the Design Advisory Committee of the City of Sydney. Recently she was named the Cultural Ambassador for Western Sydney by NSW Premier, Mike Baird.

How have hot debates been started through artistic interventions?
Kelli McCluskey is an artist and co-founder of tactical media art group, pvi collective and is head girl at cia studios [centre for interdisciplinary arts] in Perth. Formed in 1998, pvi create participatory artworks that incorporate elements of performance, visual art and intervention. Works are often site responsive, politically charged and are geared towards instigating tiny revolutions. Trained in performance art and media Kelli writes and directs for pvi and initiated cia studios in 2008, which she co-runs. Kelli is a passionate advocate for live art and interdisciplinary art forms in Australia. She is currently on the board of NAVA [National Association for the Visual Arts], was on the board of Artrage Inc from 2007 - 2011, is on the DCA arts development panel, Australia Council pool of peers, was an Electrofringe Festival state rep, a spark mentor, a Splendid and Proximity festival provocateur and has taught live art and performance internationally as well as delivered lectures & masterclasses in Australia and overseas. In 2011 Kelli cofounded Proximity Festival, Australia’s first one-on-one performance festival which provides critical peer support, encouraging artists from all disciplines to experiment with new modes of practice in the creation of participatory art as part of her work with pvi Kelli has toured extensively throughout Australia with pvi’s critically acclaimed tactical media performances resist, transumer, tts: Australia and internationally with their site-specific deviator, panopticon & reform bodies of work including Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Glasgow & Germany.