Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

The Australian Research Council funding model condemns art schools to a bleak future

By Brad Buckley and John Conomos - posted Tuesday, 7 September 2004

GIVEN the emphasis on corporatising universities and commercialising research, today's art schools face a bleak and unpredictable future.

Since the forced amalgamations of art schools with universities in 1990 and the decade-long drive that followed to have them mirror the rapidly changing management and funding models of their host institutions, various problems have emerged and, it must be said, various benefits have also been realised.

There is a flaw that these arranged marriages have brought with them as an unwelcome dowry, a flaw that has dramatically swung the balance against individual artists working in universities and art school faculties.


This flaw is the vexed issue of funded research. Art schools and their academic staff - who are contemporary art practitioners - lead, at the best of times, a shadow life in the eyes of their colleagues in other disciplines. In addition to this, and despite some recent (and much appreciated) attempts to ameliorate the situation, they are severely handicapped when applying for Australian Research Council grants.

Artists are behind the proverbial eight ball because the ARC funding model does not adequately address their creative and pedagogic attributes; to put it another way, creative work is not recognised as a legitimate field for funded research. It is almost as if C.P. Snow's “two cultures” debate of the 1960s never happened.

To understand why the ARC continues to resist the recognition of creative work 15 years after the amalgamations, it is necessary to examine the Anglo-Australian-US tradition of art education. Until quite recently, this tradition located the education of artists in “institutions with a strong vocational mission [the principles of art applied to the ‘requirements of trade and manufacturing’]”. This statement is taken from an early 20th-century document outlining the pedagogical future of the Rhode Island School of Design in the US. The school's primary function was to produce artists and designers for the local textile industry. This privileging of the utilitarian, making the development of hand skills, rather than the discursive qualities of art, the principal focus gives the statement a particularly contemporary ring today as well.

This residual prejudice - that art is essentially a manual activity or only about personal expression, not a legitimate outcome of research - is at the core of the ARC objections to applications from artists.

Art is more than just decor, more than a well-designed object. It is central to our society's cultural and political discourse, an essential part of how we can know ourselves and better understand the society we are living in and creating.

Since Oscar Wilde's time, art has also been acknowledged as a tool for criticising society; this precept is axiomatic in the visual arts today.


Shouldn't funded research at university level reflect this? Somehow, the lexicon of what constitutes valid research still excludes all this.

What is the result of this 15-year embargo on the funding of creative work in art schools? As well as the obvious disadvantage that individual artists face through not having their creative work funded, a manipulative climate has grown up in which they are encouraged to develop research projects that do not represent their primary intellectual concerns as artists but do fit neatly into the ARC funding categories.

Art school faculties are also being penalised in terms of block grants, which are tied to the successful awarding of ARC grants. Fewer ARC grants means a reduced level of funding to the faculty's overall budget.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

This article was first published in The Australian on August 25, 2004.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Authors

Brad Buckley is an Associate professor in the Sydney College of the Arts at The University of Sydney.

John Conomos is a media artist, critic and writer who works in the Sydney college of the Arts at the University of Sydney.

Related Links
Australian Research Council
Brad Buckley's Home Page
John Conomos's Home Page
Sydney School of Arts
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy