NGA to run programs to foster indigenous art curating
Corrie Perkin, national arts writer | July 08, 2009
THE Aboriginal art market generates more than $300 million a year and produces some of Australia's most talented artists.
But when it comes to managing and curating art, only a tiny percentage of Australia's visual arts professionals are indigenous.
For three years, Helen Carroll-Fairhall, manager of the Wesfarmers Arts program, has pondered this anomaly and wondered how her organisation -- a long-time supporter of the arts -- could bring more Aboriginal people into the gallery network.
After months of consulting and planning, the Wesfarmers company and the National Gallery of Australia yesterday announced a $1.25m five-year fellowship program to train and mentor indigenous people in areas such as curatorship, art registration, exhibition design, public programs and gallery marketing and communications. It is the only national fellowship of its kind, and bypasses the normally competitive and demanding traditional gallery entry process.
The fellowship, which starts in 2010, will offer 16 indigenous people a two-week intensive internship at the Canberra gallery. Two interns will then be selected to work and train at the NGA for a further two years.
The program will be repeated in 2012 with a further 16 interns.
Ms Carroll-Fairhall said she hoped the project "significantly improves the representation of indigenous people in the profession, in those leadership and management roles in galleries and in national collecting institutions".
As well, more Aboriginal arts managers would strengthen the indigenous art sector.
The NGA has hired former Democrats senator Aden Ridgeway to consult Aboriginal communities and arts centres, state art galleries and governments on how to maximise the interns' long-term job opportunities.
"I think we have to wait and see what comes out of the workshops and discussions," Mr Ridgeway said. He predicted strong indigenous community support for the idea.
"When you look at the robustness and the dynamism of the indigenous art sector ... it will offer opportunities to those who don't necessarily have the talent to be artists but who might seek opportunities in art management."