Mentees go backstage at Sydney’s CIs


Aboriginal Leadership Program

Front row, L-R: M&G NSW Aboriginal Projects Coordinator Melissa Abraham; Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery mentee Nicole Chaffey and Gallery Director Debbie Abraham. Back row, L-R: Lismore Regional Art Gallery mentee Alison Williams; Western Plains Cultural Centre mentee Gail Naden; Goulburn Regional Art Gallery mentee Shari Lett; Arts NSW Senior Aboriginal Cultural Development Officer Sharni Adamietz; M&G NSW Aboriginal Projects Manager Steve Miller; Museum of Contemporary Art's Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs Keith Munro and Regional Arts NSW Aboriginal Arts Development Officer Anthony Walker.

Regional and Sydney-based Aboriginal curators have met for the first time – with help from Museums & Galleries of NSW.

The program is part of a larger NSW Visual Arts Aboriginal Emerging Leadership Program involving regional galleries at Lake Macquarie, Goulburn, Lismore and the Western Plain Cultural Centre at Dubbo.

The four mentees spent a heady but ultimately satisfying week in Sydney packed with backstage collections tours, close-up and personals’ with Sydney-based Aboriginal curators and even managed to fit in highlights of the Biennale of Sydney.

M&G NSW organised the site visits and a morning tea to welcome the mentees which included introductions to Arts NSW, Regional Arts NSW, Arts Law Centre of Australia and the National Association of Visual Artists (NAVA).

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia was the first stop with Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs, Keith Munro providing a tour. Lunch was on the run before a collection viewing with Creative Producer at the Australian Museum, Laura McBride.

The four mentees spent a heady but ultimately satisfying week in Sydney packed with backstage collections tours, close-up and personals' with Sydney-based Aboriginal curators and even managed to fit in highlights of the Biennale of Sydney.

The schedule included a look at the Art Gallery of NSW with Curator, Cara Pinchback and Assistant Curator, Emily McDaniel and a backstage tour of the State Library with Librarian, Melissa Jackson.

Lastly, it was off to Cockatoo Island where Biennale of Sydney Aboriginal Curatorial Fellow, Chantelle Woods was on duty.

The four mentees Nicole Chaffey (Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery), Gail Naden (Western Plains Cultural Centre), Shari Lett (Goulburn Regional Art Gallery) and Alison Williams (Lismore Regional Gallery) were warmly met by all their Sydney colleagues who gave generously of their time. Contacts were exchanged, along with expectations of future opportunities for collaboration.

“It’s a pivotal part of arts institutions to acknowledge the first peoples of Australia and make sure that’s integrated with our programs, and not tokenistic." Debbie Abraham, Director Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery

During the rest of the Emerging Leadership program, the mentees will spend up to 60 days in their associated gallery and attend a variety of workshops, forums and conferences  across the country. Debbie Abraham, Director of Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, the coordinator of the Program, was glowing about the fantastic level of applications for the mentee positions:

“We advertised extensively right across regional NSW in newspapers as well as email networks.  The mentee had       to be somebody with the right direction, who wanted to know about working in public galleries, but most         importantly wanted to be a leader, not just in non-Aboriginal organisations but in Aboriginal regional organisations.”

As Debbie explains, the value of the Aboriginal Emerging Leadership Program is not just for the mentees, but also for the gallery network:

“It’s a pivotal part of arts institutions to acknowledge the first peoples of Australia and make sure that’s integrated within our programs, and not tokenistic. It’s a good opportunity to be able to support regional Aboriginal arts workers in being a part of the national scene. The Program is a way of changing the culture from the inside out.”

 

The project is administered by Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery in consultation with participating galleries, Lake Macquarie Aboriginal Reference Group and industry partners.

The program is funded through Arts NSW and the Federal Government’s Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support.