As custodian for the University’s significant collection of Australian art, UQ Art Museum is committed to sharing this resource with staff, students and the wider community. The Art Museum’s On-Campus Art Program is helping to make this mission a reality.
As part of the Program, artworks from the UQ Art Collection are exhibited in buildings and public spaces across multiple UQ campuses. Program Manager Nick Ashby works with University staff to assess these locations for their lighting, safety, and climate conditions, and to determine the artworks best suited to each venue. Recently Nick worked with UQ’s Society of Fine Arts (SoFA) Bursary recipient Molly Shields and Professor Jason Jacobs UQ’s Head of the School of Communication and Arts to install seven artworks in the Michie Building at the St Lucia campus.
We asked Jason how the artworks have changed the way staff and students feel about their spaces.
Q: Artworks from the UQ Art Collection were selected for four public areas within the Michie Building–do you have a favourite?
A: Artwork has the power to take you out of the everyday, to cause you to stop and pause and to take you away if only for a fleeting moment. It can reach out to us and seduce us into its moods, and provide us with an aesthetic experience that enhances our wellbeing.
I particularly like Rosemary Laing’s weather #4 (2006) for that reason. The figure of a woman being blown around by debris and paper creates a contemplative atmosphere, I love the sense of a breeze it brings into the corridor – the movement and dynamism, the fresh energy and vitality. I also like Ryan Presley’s series of four linocuts, The Crux: Set Sail Across the Seven Seas, The Crux: The Hungry Land Grab, The Crux: Buy, Sell & Breed Amnesia, and The Crux: Don’t Aggravate Because They Don’t Tolerate (all 2009), which feature introduced animals such as the minor bird and fox. I understand that the artist is Indigenous and that he created the work within a specific context but, for me, it provides a mood in the space – sometimes I feel in tune with the minor bird, sometimes it’s the fox!
Q: Does having artwork in the building influence the way you feel about your working environment?
A: Institutionally, I feel immense gratitude to the Art Museum for making these artworks available, and more connected to the University as a whole. Naturally there’s a curatorial imperative to preserve and care for artworks, but the On-Campus Art Program pays due respect to preservation and stewardship, while allowing things to travel a little further afield to other areas of the University. From an aesthetic perspective, I’m grateful to have fine art available to nurture a daily habit of ‘looking’. The Program has also engaged our staff and students in discussions about art. The art we like tells us more about ourselves, the spaces we want, and helps us to understand the identity and character of our School. It’s hard to think of anything else that can do what art does in that regard.
Q: Do you think staff members have a stronger connection to the artworks having been involved in the process of selecting them?
A: Absolutely. A selection of artworks was presented to a staff morning tea where we learned more about the artists’ rationales and had an opportunity to vote for the works we liked most. For staff, I think it’s always rewarding to see the outcome of their decisions and judgements and, in this case, to see this realised on the walls of their workplace. This year we’d like to involve students in the process, so that they feel even more ownership of these spaces.
Q: For the School of Communication and Arts, what’s the most valuable aspect of bringing artwork into spaces used by students, staff and visitors?
A: It’s easy to make claims on a website about a commitment to art and culture, but I hope that bringing artwork into our public spaces sends a strong signal about how we value culture and communicate about culture in an uncertain world. The fact is that we help shape graduates who are highly skilled at making aesthetic judgements, talking about art, debating and discussing the value of art and thinking about the relationship between the technologies of communication and art, so having artwork around us is a great advantage. The people walking the halls of the Michie Building are highly motivated and interested in culture, so to have some aspects of that culture reflected in their everyday spaces is stimulating and rewarding.
Read more about the UQ Art Museum On-Campus Art Program.