Drawing on our strong history of visual arts offering, La Trobe’s revamped Visual Arts major offers greater opportunity, flexibility and competitive edge.
The changes are part of our new art strategy: to be national leaders in regional creative arts and the Australian University of choice for local, national and international arts and cultural industry partnerships.
We spoke with Senior Lecturer Dr Vincent Alessi, who has 15 years’ experience as a Gallery Director and Curator, about how the new course benefits our students.
Improved course structure = flexibility and competitive edge
Offered at our Bendigo and Mildura campuses, the new Visual Arts major is part of our Bachelor of Creative Arts. The major is aligned with contemporary arts practices with a focus on hybrid practice that provides opportunities for students to engage in the development of their skills across disciplines.
The emphasis is on 21st century studio based curriculum that combines visual arts theory and practice in a world class context. In Year 1, the focus is on thinking creatively and conceptually; in Year 2 students develop their own professional identity working on longer structured and self-directed projects. In Year 3, students undertake a year-long self-directed project.
Dr Alessi says the great advantage of the new course structure is the opportunity to take – not two, as was previously the case, but – twelve electives throughout their Visual Arts degree while still having the same allocated core studio-based subjects.
‘Students now have the capacity to take discipline-specific visual arts electives or pick-up subjects across the humanities to suit their interests,’ he explains.
Dr Alessi says the new structure gives students greater flexibility and opportunity for cross-pollination, which enables them to expand their thinking and skillset. It makes them highly employable across a broader sector.
Our Visual Arts major offers students industry links at every corner, to increase their knowledge, skills and employment potential.
We have a partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria, where our students have the opportunity to study a summer subject at the gallery and be taught by the NGV’s curatorial and education staff, as well as LTU academics from multiple disciplines. We also have partnerships with key regional galleries, including the Bendigo Art Gallery.
With Bendigo a short train-ride from Melbourne, we regularly take students to Australia’s arts capital on exhibition tours.
Bendigo itself is the fastest-growing regional city and, of course, is a visual arts mecca in itself, with the Bendigo Art Gallery and the La Trobe Visual Arts Centre regularly hosting successful exhibitions and exposing our students to a range of new shows.
Similarly in Mildura, there’s the Mildura Arts Centre, Arts Vault and the Museum of Innocence, the latter which also has regular artist residencies, again, bringing ground-breaking work and ideas to the region.
Within our course, each week we run an art forum where we invite artists and curators to speak about their work and practice. Dr Alessi says it’s a great opportunity for students to start meeting practicing artists and industry professionals and understand what’s expected to be successful.
Advantages of studying regional
From a purely practical point of view, it’s far more affordable to live and study in Bendigo or Mildura than it is in Melbourne.
There’s the added benefit of studying within a smaller cohort, where you get to know everyone in your course and form a tight-knit community.
‘The people you study with, particularly if you’re studying something like Visual Arts, will become your peers when you leave university. They are your ready-made network,’ points out Dr Alessi.
Rather than being just one of many, in a smaller cohort students are able to be much more reliant on each other, work together and support each other.
‘We have art clubs, which are student initiatives, where the students do everything from running their own functions to curating their own exhibitions and learning valuable skills in doing so,’ Dr Alessi adds.
In Bendigo, all our students get their own studio space. ‘We have printmaking facilities; analogue and digital darkroom photography facilities; ceramic kilns; and painting and drawing studios,’ says Dr Alessi.
The Bendigo art school has its own gallery, the Phillis Palmer Gallery, where our students and alumni exhibit their work. Students are also encouraged to put up their work in small pods within the studio spaces where they can gain informal feedback from their peers.
In Mildura, we provide similar facility opportunities through SuniTAFE.
Our commitment to the regions
Dr Alessi says the restructure of the Visual Arts major is part of La Trobe’s broader commitment to be a major player in the visual arts in regional Victoria.
‘A lot of the work has been around how we best provide opportunities for students in the region,’ he points out.
‘We don’t in any way think that an artist that comes out of Bendigo is a “Bendigo-specific artist” or that artists in that region somehow think differently than their city counterparts.
‘The renewed Visual Arts major and our art strategy is about ensuring students in those regions have exactly the same opportunities as students in the city.’