By Anne Collett.
The FLHA Centre for Cultures, Texts & Creative Industries hosted Professor Stuart Walker’s recent visit to UOW (Sept/Oct 2016), and as Director of the Centre, I took on the organisation of the symposium & workshop he nominated as a significant component of his 7-week program. CTC members and other interested parties from TAEM were invited to meet with Prof Walker to discuss shared research interests, and it was out of this meeting that Prof Walker, Prof Sue Turnbull and myself decided to focus the symposium/ workshop on art/design/cultural practice in the Illawarra region, thereby beginning work toward mapping what Prof Walker calls an ‘ecology of practice’. The ‘Ecologies of Practice: Illawarra’ workshop held at UOW on 21/10/16 thus became part of a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project ‘exploring practices that have a very strong origin in local or national culture’, and placed UOW in collaborative relationship with Lancaster and Manchester Metropolitan Universities (UK). Importantly, this workshop has also acted to place Illawarra artists and UOW teachers and researchers of design and culture in relationship to communities as diverse as Santa Fe (New Mexico), Shanghai (China) and Cumbria (UK) with whom Prof Walker is working to produce maps of Creative Ecology.
The purpose of the symposium/workshop at UOW was to initiate, through collective knowledge of arts and related creative practices in the Illawarra, the development of a ‘Creative Ecology’ map of the region. This map is designed to identify all the ‘extrinsic’ elements that help facilitate and support creative practices in the region. In Prof Walker’s words: ‘Once completed, the Creative Ecology map will provide a visualization of the elements present in the region – and will also help identify areas that might require further development. Hence, the Creative Ecology map also has a diagnostic function’.
Significantly, the symposium and workshop negotiated relationship between UOW and the Illawarra community. This was a ‘gown and town’ initiative that extended institutional relationship with ImaginationLancaster will nurture and develop. Speakers representative of a wide range of perspectives on cultural practice in the Illawarra were sought out and invited to participate. In addition, an invitation was sent out through various channels to include a range of individuals with relationship to UOW and the broader Arts community. Speakers included Michael Organ (local historian and Manger of Repository Services at the UOW Library); Jade Kennedy (Yuin man from the Illawarra; UOW PhD candidate exploring impacts of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage on Engineering project management); Ann Martin (Artist, Wollongong Counsellor and Planning Officer for the Southern Region, NSW); Susan Barnett (Artist and graduate of UOW Creative Arts; cultural events organiser); Denise Russell (UOW honorary fellow; founder and director of the Thirroul Readers & Writers Festival); Trent Jansen (award winning designer and PhD candidate, Creative Arts, UOW); and Lucia Parrella (Print-maker, UOW Creative Arts graduate, Community Arts & Cultural Development practitioner – multi-arts program for women). 23 participants were involved in the mapping project. It was a productive and successful day that we hope to build on over the course of the coming year.