Collection Study Room / Five Minutes With... / UQ Community

How great teachers can ignite a passion for art

“There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move,
and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.”
― Robert Frost

UQ Art Museum volunteer Jessica Olding Photo: Dione

UQ Art Museum volunteer Jessica Olding
Photo: Sam Scoufos

At UQ Art Museum we’ve recently been thinking a lot about how great educators make art more accessible for students. They can spark in students an interest in or deeper understanding of art, no matter what their study discipline, and can navigate a collection to identify artworks that enrich curriculums.

We were keen to get a student’s perspective on this topic, so we sat down with UQ Bachelor of Arts – Art History student and UQ Art Museum volunteer Jessica Olding and asked her about her experience studying art and the difference a great teacher can make.

Q: Can you recall a time when a teacher opened your eyes to something wonderful in relation to art?
A: When I was at school my art teacher showed me an X-ray of a painting where the artist had changed the composition three or four times before settling on the final composition. I was captivated. I felt like I’d been given a backstage pass, a secret insight into the thought process of a master.

Many years later, during my first semester at UQ, I took Dr Sally Butler’s Looking at Art course as an elective. From the first lecture I was completely entranced. This introductory course gave me the confidence to pursue art further and reignited my passion for it. I learnt Art History is not just a history of art and artists, but also a history of the world, and of individual experiences informed by culture, politics and spirituality.

In the winter break, I took another of Dr Butler’s subjects, this time a field school subject where we travelled to a remote Indigenous community in north-eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. This experience was life changing in many ways. When I returned, I changed my major to Art History and decided to pursue a career in the arts. Studying Art History at UQ has completely changed the trajectory of my career.

Q: How important is it to be guided in your studies by lecturers and arts professionals?
A: There are moments when an artwork grabs you, and the world around becomes inexplicably silent. Then there are works that irritate and enrage, and some that lose the battle for your attention altogether. Great Art History teachers facilitate a deeper appreciation for the artworks that already speak to you, mediate the conflict between or with artworks that offend, and encourage a deeper appreciation of artworks that are less assertive.

Q: What kind of barriers do you think there are for young people engaging with art?
A: I think the biggest barrier is confidence. Great art challenges they way we look at the world and this can be intimidating. People are afraid they won’t understand an artwork or will say something silly. Sometimes it feels like art belongs to an institution rather than the public. Initiatives like the Alumni Friends of UQ Collection Study Room at the UQ Art Museum actively breaks down these barriers and gives students the opportunity to take ownership over their experience with art.

Q: How do you think an experienced and qualified teacher in the Alumni Friends of UQ Collection Study Room can help break those barriers down?
A: An educator with a deep knowledge of Art History, who is able to communicate with students at all levels of their academic and cultural education could change the way students engage with art and the UQ Art Museum generally. Having a dedicated educator in the Alumni Friends of UQ Collection Study Room would not only be a valuable resource for advanced students looking for a deeper insight into specific artwork, but would make engaging in art more accessible for students in the early stages of their education, including students of other disciplines. An educator who can truly communicate the depth and meaning behind an artwork in a way that’s accessible, but not overly simplified, would be invaluable.

2016 Outstanding Educator Campaign

You may know that in April 2015, we realised the dream of a Collection Study Room within the UQ Art Museum – a custom-built study room providing unprecedented access to The University of Queensland’s outstanding Art Collection. We have no doubt that the Alumni Friends of UQ Collection Study Room will transform student learning. The impact of the kindness of our donors, who fully funded this facility, will be ongoing and immeasurable.

However, the challenge now is to activate this space to its full potential as a hub for learning.

An excellent educator can make this happen. We need a PhD-qualified professional with a passion for sharing their knowledge of art and the UQ Art Collection – someone who can help make visual art a fascinating part of teaching and learning, no matter what degree they are studying. A PhD-qualified educator will also develop and teach Masters level courses, providing further value to student education.

UQ Art Museum is committed to filling an educator position from 2016 for UQ students. However, to achieve our education ambitions, we need double the investment we can make on our own – and we need your help. Every dollar you donate to this appeal will be matched, and will support the work of an educator. Please consider making a tax deductable gift to this campaign today.

For a confidential conversation about supporting our immediate education goals or to make a planned gift, please contact our Advancement Manager Fiona Sutton on +61 7 336 54007 f.sutton@uq.edu.au

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