Challenging the teacher student model

Art making by the Macquarie River

I was recently given an opportunity to spend a day with senior art students on a camp in Dubbo. With my practice and interest in digital media and installation, I was asked to give an introduction to my work and before spending several hours in the field with the students to capture sound, video, and photographs of the environment around the Macquarie River.

It’s the type of opportunity I jump at for the chance to get outside for a day, but more so to reexamine my practice and how it translates to those who don’t know the mediums I work in or the understand the concepts behind the works. It’s a reality check.

As a student studying high school art, I saw the adults in my world as teachers only – and not exactly the inspiring type, given their focus was on delivering outcomes and not the practice and process of art making. I certainly didn’t get access to any working artists back in the 80s. My grandmother was the closest thing I came to a working artist and she was of the traditional ‘dead sheds and grey gums’ school of art. (Her own definition, by the way)

My first experience of teaching art was in the early 2000s delivering postcard art to adult classes at a rural women’s conference. This was followed a few years later by a gig teaching art and art marketing through an outreach program with TAFE Western – again adult classes. These classes had everyone on a more level playing field – adult to adult sharing ideas, experiences and ways of doing things.

Photographing assemblages on the Macquarie RiverThis is what I took into my day with the senior students. There was genuine interest from some of them, in an understated 16 or 17-year-old way, and a quiet determination to be creative with what was around them, capturing what they saw or produced on camera, on the sound recorder, and on paper. One student managed to capture enough sound to produce a 1’30” soundtrack mix with me in a group tutorial for the group’s photography slideshow the following day.

As a result of spending time with me, some of them may go on to see their world through fresh eyes or ears, maybe not. Either way, my day was richer and more inspired for having spent time with them.

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