Griffith University: Save our Studios!

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On 2 November 2020 Griffith University released the Proposal for Workplace Change Roadmap to Sustainability (R2S), advising that they plan to withdraw courses related to the following studios at the Queensland College of Art in 2021:

  • Jewellery & Small Objects (J&SO)
  • Print(making)
  • Advertising Photography
  • Documentary Photography
  • Creative and Interactive Media (reduced to a major)

If these proposals are progressed, The Queensland College of Art will lose 44% of their teaching staff across Fine Art and Photography and 16.7% in Design. This is in addition to the many sessional and technical staff whose contributions are invaluable to the education and development of students, and the maintenance of the studios. 


Griffith University has one of the leading art schools in the country, and is one of two universities in Australia that offers a dedicated Bachelor of Photography, and is the only art school in Queensland that specialises in offering studio-based programs. Across its rich 140-year history, the staff, facilities and alumni of QCA have continued to be internationally recognised for their academic and studio excellence.

With these proposed changes, the unique teaching skills, technical support and studio resources essential for the future growth of these communities will be lost to Queensland forever. This will have severe ramifications for the future of the Visual Arts industry in Brisbane, affecting current student experience, potential career opportunities and future employability. Without specialised studio-based and practise-led programs, what can the Queensland College of Art offer that other creative programs do not?


Chancellor Henry Smerdon, Vice Chancellor Carolyn Evans and Pro Vice Chancellor Scott Harrison, we urge you to re-evaluate this proposal, and to consider the catastrophic impact these changes will have not only to the inter/national reputation of Griffith University and the Queensland College of Art, but to the damage these cuts will have on the structure of arts education in Australia.


The closures of these specific programs have been justified by the economic performance of their courses. The proposal provided by the Vice Chancellor in the R2S justifies:

“These programs were identified as high cost with bespoke space and technical staff 
requirements, and / or declining enrolments.”

In fact, statistics and data compiled by Griffith University and external consultants actually indicate that Print and J&SO not only have the highest student satisfaction ratings within the QCA (4.7 and 4.6 respectively) but Print is also the third most cost effective program in Fine Art and Photography.  Enrolment in both of these courses has also risen by 79% and 39% respectively between 2018 - 2019. 


The economic analysis has taken into account only the enrolment of students in classes, not the value of those classes for students and alumni; the value of the physical facilities and staff for other members of the QCA community; and the demonstrable ongoing successes of alumni from these programs. The arts, and art schools, are ecologies that cannot be evaluated and/or streamlined in the same manner as other degrees. 


These studios are also key resources for students enrolled in Design, Photography, Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art (CAIA) and Higher Degree Research (HDR) programs. Printmaking holds special significance within the contemporary Indigenous art canon, with an overwhelming number of CAIA graduates continuing to select this as their major. The Print studio is regarded as the most important printmaking facility north of Sydney, and contains a world-class papermaking studio which, in addition to the Print and J&SO studio facilities, provides a core learning and making resource for the DVA, PhD, Honours and MAVA students. 


The J&SO program provides an essential and unique creative hub for makers in Queensland, providing students with a network of globally successful alumni and practitioners and a dedicated space to practice their craft. The J&SO program is the only university course of its kind in Queensland, and one of only five nationally.


These studios are exemplars of contemporary thought in creative pedagogy—not only because of the equipment and materials used, but because they embody physical, task-based learning, peer-to-peer communication, and community-building. 


Since 1996, QCA has offered an unparalleled learning experience with majors across three critical practices within the Bachelor of Photography — Documentary, Advertising and Photographic Art. The proposal would put an end to decades of comprehensive photographic education, leaving only Photographic Art as a specialisation within a freshly amalgamated ‘Bachelor of Visual Arts’. 


The unique opportunity to study Documentary Photography and Photojournalism reinforces important ethics across the global news media, with world-renowned graduates working with media outlets such as Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, The New York Times and our own ABC. The Bachelor of Photography and it’s advertising major presents an unequaled opportunity and access to industry leading professionals who foster studio-based careers, which no other Queensland university can offer students. 


Closing fundamental tertiary craft learning will inevitably lead to the downturn in critical skill development, employment (including small business job creation), cultural health and inter/national recognition and innovation of Australian creative industries. 

Small businesses drive the nation’s economy, with creative industries being some of the most impactful employers - employing more than 600,000 people including 50,000 professional artists per annum. The sector, with highly skilled, tertiary trained people provides significantly more employment than mining, retail, communications, IT and utilities. 

Signing and sharing this petition will demonstrate the cultural and economic need to strive for artistic excellence through tertiary education. 


Griffith University — please save our studios and our staff.

 

To signatories of this petition: We believe that these programs and majors should not be closed. If you share this opinion, please consider also writing a brief piece below and to Vice Chancellor Carolyn Evans (vc@griffith.edu.au) in support. If you are a student or alumni, please share the importance of these programs to your study, career, and practice.

Image: Matthew Newkirk.