Ian Potter Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons. By user Elekhh.
Ian Potter Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons. By user Elekhh.

An interesting story in The Australian yesterday that highlights the significant collections of art held by our universities (and the large amount of art being made or performed within a university environment) and the unfortunate fact that the broader public is often unaware of them. Link to the full article here.

The vast contribution of univer­sities to Australia’s cultural landscape through art and museum collections and the creation of new artistic works is not only under-appreciated by experts but goes largely unnoticed by the broader community, a new paper claims.

“Universities are prolific collectors of artworks,” Jenny Wilson writes in a paper in the most ­recent edition of Australian Universities Review.

They are also ­prolific creators of the arts, she says, noting that there are more than 100,000 students undertaking tertiary level creative arts programs.

The 2012 Excellence in ­Research for Australia exercise ­attracted 13,708 artistic submissions. Indeed, 26 universities were ranked at world standard or above in ERA 2012.

But Dr Wilson contends that for all the seriousness and extent of the work being produced and collected, it remains “largely hidden” from public view and even from inner sanctums of the artistic community, including the Australia Council.

“The reasons may stem from insufficient interest by the university sector in progressing the artistic agenda, which is exacerbated by a paucity of data and insufficient community between arts, higher education and research policy and the practitioner worlds that are governed by them,” she writes.

Dr Wilson says there are exceptions, usually in high-profile galleries and conservatoriums, but argues the issue is not confined to collections.

In the original article by Dr Wilson (which you can read online here https://issuu.com/nteu/docs/aur_58-01) she suggests that more data and better reporting is needed so that the significant number of art events (exhibitions, performances etc) happening at our universities can be better included in the bigger picture of arts in Australia.

More comprehensive information about where artistic activities are taking place may encourage strategies that: provide audiences with increased opportunities to see, hear and experience art; improve and share use of infrastructure throughout the year, and encourage  a greater proportion of art collections to be taken out of the basements of the humanities building and senior executive corridors for public viewing.

… As universities increasingly apply promotion and funding criteria more suited to the science lab than the art studio, support for artists to continue their practice can be squeezed out, along with the space, time and infrastructure that is afforded to students, Australia’s future artistic leaders… Public annual reporting would remind universities that, as custodians of Australia’s current and emerging artists and a significant proportion of our cultural heritage, they need to do more to support artists and audiences.