In 2009, the National Gallery of Australia and Wesfarmers Limited established the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowship program to address the relatively small percentage of Indigenous professionals participating in the visual arts sector. The Fellowship focuses on the professional development of Indigenous people in roles supporting the visual arts, such as curating, marketing, exhibition management, art handling, registration, publishing, photography and fundraising. Through the program, Fellows are given the opportunity to work on a project of their choice over a two-year period while working with Gallery staff and mentored by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art department. The program aims to foster and encourage Indigenous leadership and professional development in the visual arts.
Outputs & Impacts
There have been three total Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Leadership programs held at the National Gallery of Australia since 2010. A total of 30 participants have completed the program and another 10 Indigenous participants will take place in the program in November 2013. Of the thirty total students, 95% of the participants have gone on to professional visuals arts schooling, opened their own businesses or are currently participating in management roles within the arts sector throughout Australia.
The Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowship, a $50,000 fellowship allowing two senior-level participants to pursue individual projects over a two-year period with mentoring support from the NGA has also had tangible outcomes.
Jirra Harvey (VIC) a Fellow from 2010 opened Kalinya Communications in 2012, a marketing company designed to assist Indigenous Australians with marketing in the arts. Jirra is currently working in collaboration with Wesfarmers and the Gallery on producing radio commercials, TVC and marketing materials for the upcoming 2013 Indigenous Leadership program.
Brad Harkin (SA) was a participant of the 2011 leadership program and formed a relationship with the NGA that has extended well beyond the program. In May 2012 he spent two weeks with the exhibition installation team working on unDisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial exhibition and his fellowship project will build on this experience. Brad is currently working with the Travelling Exhibition Department in three locations across Australia.
Suzanne Barron (WA) was a participant of the 2011 leadership program and discovered a passion for materials conservation during her internship with the NGA. Suzanne, from WA, is now completing a degree in Objects Conservation at Melbourne University's Ian Potter Conservation Centre. Suzanne is the Centre's first indigenous student.
By 2015, up to 50 Indigenous people will have participated in the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous programs at the NGA, laying the foundations for significantly increased participation from ATSI people in the visual art sector.
Through participating in the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowship and leadership program, these individuals will not only have their career trajectories enhanced and supported through a mix of training, mentorship and exposure to unparalleled artistic and cultural experiences but they will be at the forefront of building a critical mass for Indigenous presence in the sector.
"We are very much aware of the role our national institutions must play in respecting the central place that Indigenous art occupies in defining the contemporary face of Australia, both at home and to the world. Likewise, we know that increasing the levels of Indigenous leadership in our museums and galleries is a significant challenge. It is a privilege to be working with the national gallery of Australian along the path towards achieving these goals for the benefit of all Australians."
Richard Goyder, December 2012