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Curatorial Professional Development Program (2013)


MCA & Regional Arts NSW Project, 14-18 August 2013

Coinciding with the String Theory exhibit at the MCA, Regional Arts NSW developed a program specifically for the Regional Arts NSW Aboriginal Arts Officer Network, meeting their request for further professional development.
The Regional Arts NSW Curatorial Professional Development Program came out of discussions where RANSW was exploring how best to address this need from the regions for artistic identity-building skills. Working closely with Keith Munro, MCA Curator of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Programs, the program was developed in-line with Regional Arts Australia’s (RAA) National Strategic Projects, which is funded by the Regional Arts Fund. This program’s purpose is to build capacity for regional and remote Aboriginal artists through connecting communities on a national level to encourage cross-border collaboration, national perspectives, skill development and networking.
The Professional Development program focussed on curatorial professional development, involving eight Aboriginal Art Development Officers from four regional areas of NSW. MCA staff roles during the PD centered on sharing their professional experience, expertise and hands on skills in practical ways to provide the participants with a sense of the MCA’s processes and insights and,  more importantly, the confidence to utilise these skills in their daily work.
There was a strong emphasis on the importance of a two-way learning process which would allow the Aboriginal Arts Development Officers to share their creative and cultural insights with MCA staff to enrich their understanding of artistic influences coming out of communities and art hubs, as well as appreciate the dynamic diversity of contemporary Aboriginal art practice. The group visited the Macleay Museum to view the NSW artifacts exhibition, Gadigal Information Services, the Australia Museum and met with many artists invited from across Australia to exhibit in String Theory, to discuss their work and processes.
Anthony Walker, Aboriginal Arts Development Officer for Arts Northern Rivers, said of the experience “I gained skills and knowledge which I will take back to my region and share with our local Aboriginal artists. The networking opportunities enabled me to foster relationships between Arts Northern Rivers and industry contacts, and made me aware of other avenues through which we can promote the arts of our region.”
The experience offered them everything from the practical: “I liked seeing how the artworks are stored and prepared for exhibition,” said Melissa Ryan, from Orana Arts, “how they use innovative and creative ideas to provide storage solutions”; through to the educational possibilities of integrating digital technology for galleries and keeping spaces: “We had a very comprehensive guide to the MCA’s strategies for interacting with the different audiences. Seeing how social media can play a role, or how the development of an app can help create an interactive experience for visitors was really exciting.”

Snapshot of events from the program itinerary:

Image: Courtesy of Michael Geia, Arts NSW. Aboriginal Development Officers Network: (l-r) Anthony Walker, Jamie-Lea Hodges, Aleshia Lonsdale, Karin Thurston, Susan Lawrence, Melissa Ryan, Sam Turnbull, Lorrayne Riggs.