Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Places of Conversation

This week my work is hosting a number of visiting artists and scholars who specialize in work relating to apology, denial, reconciliation, and Indigenous issues more broadly.  It's been great to have the opportunity to listen to and talk with individuals who are passionate about their work and who approach historical and contemporary issues in creative ways.

Many of the events being held this week focus on the interaction of students with established practitioners and professionals.  For example, one event involved a print making class having the opportunity to speak with artists who have experience working with historical sources, addressing difficult topics, and Indigenous art practice. The students had the opportunity to participate in discussion in a relaxed, informal environment and interact with people who are well known in their respective artistic fields. 

This event reminded me of the importance of spaces which facilitate open discussion and the joy of having many points of view in one room. In this instance the discussion was help in an archival space and part of the discussion focused on the ethics behind using archival material in artistic, research and curatorial practice. I like the idea of archives being places of conversation, places of educational development and safe spaces for new and established scholars to interact.

Seeing a well known scholar or artist speak at a conference is one thing.  As a young scholar or student asking a question during the presentation might be intimidating, as might approaching the speaker without an introduction.  Having opportunities for students to interact with established professionals in a low pressure environment can be a huge boon in terms of networking, confidence building, and professional growth.

I also think it's important for academic institutions to open their doors to people outside of the academy.  Some of the visiting scholars this week are from other universities, but some also have their own studio practices or focus on community based work.  Broad community engagement and remembering that there is a big world outside of your own institution (academic or otherwise) have the potential to open new avenues of collaboration.

What type of spaces do you think best encourage conversation amongst new and established professionals? 

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