Friday, April 18, 2008

Artswipe Swipes Again!

Thanks to The Artswipe for emailing us about her newest post, which suggests that Western Sydney regional galleries should stop involving UWS academics in their events given there is no endoresement of art now at the uni. Good one Artswipe! Read it HERE.

Mayors push for another uni in west

Harriet Alexander Higher Education Reporter
Sydney Morning Herald
April 18, 2008

MAYORS in Sydney's west are pushing for a second university in the region because they say the University of Western Sydney is cutting vital courses, reducing staff and failing to meet demand from students.

The president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Tony Hay, said the region needed more university places to meet the growth in population, now 1.8 million.

"And if that means a second university in Western Sydney, so be it," said Mr Hay, who is also Mayor of Baulkham Hills.

South Australia, which has a smaller population, is served by three universities, he said.

The University of Western Sydney has six campuses, including Hawkesbury, Penrith, Bankstown, Parramatta, Campbelltown and Blacktown, but it announced last year it was winding up courses at the Blacktown campus.

It has cut its performing and fine arts programs and is rationalising its nursing program by moving places from Bankstown to the other three campuses where it is offered.

The university has also embarked on a voluntary redundancy program among academic staff, raising concerns about its already high staff to student ratio.

Leo Kelly, the Mayor of Blacktown, has asked the federal Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, to fund a restructure that would allow courses to continue at Blacktown, western Sydney's most populous postcode, and failing that, to build another university in the area.

"Our message to them was that the university had been dismantled by stealth and really needed to be restructured, with this Government's policy in mind, to allow people from this region to get an education," Cr Kelly said.

The university was only set up after lobbying by Blacktown Council, he said. "They've betrayed us."

Ms Gillard promised to send a policy adviser to assess problems at the university, he said.

Representatives from 11 councils, including Baulkham Hills, Blacktown, Penrith, Hawkesbury and Campbelltown, met the university's vice chancellor, Janice Reid, last week to discuss their concerns.

Professor Reid said the meeting was a watershed for the university's alliances with local government, but there were always a few mayors among the 14 councils in the university's catchment who were unhappy with its direction.

Professor Reid said the university had closed its Blacktown campus because few students were studying there and it was moving its nursing places as part of a broader program to concentrate courses at a few campuses where it could build critical mass.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

UWS Artists & Exhibitionists Have a Massive Week!

Click on image to enlarge

On Wednesday night (9 April) Mori Gallery opened a large group exhibition given over to artists hailing from University of Western Sydney's art school. The show runs until 26 April. Check it out - it's amazing!

Bent Western Live on Stage
Image: Anastasia Zaravinos

On Saturday night (14 April), Blacktown Arts Centre hosted Bent Western: Live on Stage - a night of queer cabaret mayhem to celebrate the closing of the exhibition Bent Western, a group exhibition predominantly made up of queer artists who had studied at the UWS art school over the years. The live show last night was an absolute hoot and among the 21 performers were UWS alumni Anastasia Zaravinos, Liam Benson, Sari TM Kivinen, Tim Hilton, Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Jessica Olivieri, Melissa Ramos and Raymond Haber.
UWS reshapes fine-arts program
By Anita Maglicic and Clare Bruce

from Northern News 1 April 2008

AS STUDENTS at the University of Western Sydney settle into their first semester of classes, some are lamenting that this is the final year for the fine arts and electronic arts degrees.

Last year the university announced these courses would be replaced by a four-year Bachelor of Contemporary Art degree in 2008, but it failed to attract enough applicants.

In the revised version, a two-year TAFE Diploma of Fine Arts will be a prerequisite for a two-year Bachelor of Contemporary Art degree that will start next year.

Studio art such as painting and drawing, printmaking, ceramics and sculpture will now be taught at Kingswood TAFE and other campuses.

In the two-year degree component, students will study media and digital arts, photo media, animation, screen and sound, convergent and interactive media, digital music and art history and theory.

The 25 to 30 students of the fine arts and electronic art degrees who started in 2006 will be the last, as these courses are phased out by 2009. TAFE students who have already completed the diploma component can start the new degree next year.

Tony Hay, the president of Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, said he was was disappointed about the loss of courses and blamed a lack of advertising.

"Western Sydney's distance, transport problems and socioeconomic disadvantage already places serious challenges on our artists," he said.

Lori Saywell, a 2007 graduate, agreed the university didn't do enough marketing.

"I found out about the course through a friend because I didn't know it was there," she said.

Professor Lynette Sheridan Burns, the head of communication art at UWS, said the course was advertised through brochures, the prospectus and on the university website.

She said the changes were due to a lack of applicants in the high-cost courses.

"Governments have reduced funding to universities that specialise in particular areas of study."

She said there had been a decline in fine-art enrolments nationally, not just in western Sydney.

Penrith councillor Jim Aitken, who has already asked the university to reconsider, said: "I think it's regretful that UWS can't find somewhere to cut back a little to let the full degree continue.

"The council supports the arts very heavily in Penrith through our Q Theatre, Joan Sutherland Centre and Penrith Regional Gallery.

"We are building a city known for its education and culture this decision is something that will retard this growth."

Also published as part of this story was this smaller article:

The history of the art school

THE UWS art school at Penrith was established in 1981 as part of the Nepean College of Advanced Education, to cater for budding artists in the west.

In its heyday in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it had more than 1000 students, 100 staff including highly respected Australian artists, and a high status in the arts scene. Some called it the ‘‘jewel in the university’s crown’’.

It has produced highly regarded artists such as Brook Andrew, Raquel Ormella and Con Gouriotis (now Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre director), while the theatre program has produced actors such as David Wenham.

The School of Contemporary Arts once included performance, fine arts, dance and electronic art. By the end of this year, the only degree left of those will be music.

In July 2007, a forum was held at Blacktown Arts Centre as part of a major art event called Western Front, to discuss the issues faced by the art world of western Sydney. A source said that the decline of the UWS arts department was on the agenda, but no one from the university attended to explain its side of the story, despite invitations.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Want to go to art school? Don't live in Western Sydney

from Crikey (13 February 2008)

Joanna Mendelssohn writes:

While SMH art critic John McDonald continues to rabbit on about “scandalous” attacks on East Sydney’s National Art School I have yet to hear a peep about the real scandal in Sydney’s arts education — the end of art at the University of Western Sydney.

The art school at UWS used to be one of the best in the country. In the 1990s graduates were a parade of hot talent. The work was gritty, sometimes unpredictable, and bouncing with energy. It told of a place with few resources and a population greater than South Australia. Local and state government authorities responded to this energy, and in recent years have opened arts centres at at Campbelltown, Penrith, Blacktown, Parramatta and Fairfield. Later this year an expanded Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre will reopen as a major resource for the Liverpool region and beyond.

But while local government can make the link between creativity and economic prosperity, UWS is taking a different path. In recent years arts budgets were slashed in favour of commerce. Students sniffed the wind and started to look elsewhere Enrolments fell. The drama program that nurtured David Wenham was first to go. Last year there was no intake of first year students in visual arts. This year students have been told to go to TAFE for two years. Most of the remaining teaching staff have taken voluntary redundancy.

As a result, those who would study art in greater Sydney have the choice between two university art schools in the extreme inner city (Sydney College of the Arts at Rozelle and College of Fine Arts at Paddington), or a bus ride to Wollongong. Sydney’s public transport is so exquisitely appalling that this places students without wheels at an enormous disadvantage.

The media coverage of the dismantling of art education in the west has been minimal. If ever proof was needed of the myopic self-centred nature of the media then this is it. Ross Fitzgerald, father of a student at the former East Sydney Technical College (aka National Art School) has had several bleats in the Australian about the possible closure of his daughter’s institution, but nothing, no-one, gives a stuff about Western Sydney — except the people who live and work there. Who happen to be the majority.

Declaration of interest: Joanna Mendelssohn is an Associate Professor at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW and is on the Board of the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bent Western Exhibition

Daniel Mudie Cunningham asked us to post info about Bent Western, his curated survey show of queer art from Western Sydney. Opening at Blacktown Arts Centre on 7 February 6pm. Until 12 April. Daniel tells us that 10 of the 16 artists were from UWS.


Monday, December 17, 2007

WSROC Media Release 15 December 2007

Councils act against UWS abandoning Arts courses

A taskforce comprising Councillors and senior staff from councils across Western Sydney have resolved to consider alternative options for the provision of tertiary arts education in the region in the wake of the University of Western Sydney’s decision to suspend intake to its sole remaining contemporary arts degree in 2008.

WSROC President, Clr Tony Hay, who is the Chair of the taskforce which was established by WSROC at the request of the Mayors of WSROC member councils, said that he was extremely disappointed but not surprised by the University’s decision.

“The suspension of the contemporary arts degree is just the final step in the University’s dismantling of its provision of performing and visual arts training”, he said.

“In the space of just a few years, the University has reduced its once vibrant contribution to the
region’s cultural development to a single, generic contemporary arts degree – and then suspended even that course,” Clr Hay said.

Clr. Tony Hay said that “following discussion with other Western Sydney Mayors the consensus was that the UWS had betrayed several of its basic principles that we had supported for its establishment.”

“I note that the University says that it proposes to re-write the course and to offer it again in some form in 2009 but I am entirely pessimistic about its future. The University has already commenced the disposal of much of its dedicated visual arts equipment and plans to turn the purpose-built performing and visual arts facilities over to other uses.” Clr Hay said.

“Even if a new course is offered in 2009, I understand it will be based entirely on computer design and technologies.

Clr Hay acknowledged that State Government and all councils across the region recognise the need for a strong commitment to the arts and cultural development and stated that “millions of dollars had been invested in developing cultural infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, it appears, Western Sydney can no longer rely on the University to provide training for the artists and performers from our region to create the cultural content to complement this infrastructure,” Clr Hay said.

Clr Hay stated “Greater Western Sydney’s total population of 1.8 million is larger than that of Perth (1.5 million).

He added “However, in 2006 in four Perth universities alone over 7,600 full-time students were offered and studied creative arts (that included visual and performing arts studies in 39 courses), compared to only 2,300 full-time creative arts positions made available by UWS in Western Sydney.

Indeed he added “Students could only select visual and performing arts studies from the University of Western Sydney’s four courses.

This disgraceful lack of opportunity in Western Sydney will increase in 2008 with the further planned cuts by the University of Western Sydney.

Western Sydney's geographical distances, transport problems and socio-economic disadvantage
already places serious challenges on our artists and makes accessing inner city arts school extremely difficult, even if places could be offered.

“Western Sydney now has no university-based visual or performing arts training.

“The University’s decision has forced our taskforce to seriously consider alternative options for the provision of this training to our region.

“We have commenced discussions with other Universities and institutions to provide tertiary arts training courses and opportunities for Western Sydney”, Clr Hay concluded.

Contact: WSROC President: Clr Tony Hay, 0422 508 975
Acting Executive Director: Ms Sharon Fingland, 02 9671 4333, 0417 239 539

Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) Ltd
Suite 2 Level 1 (PO Box 63) Blacktown 2148
© 2006 WSROC Ltd
T 02 9671 4333
F 02 9621 7741


Sunday, December 09, 2007

UWS Gradshow speeches 2007
by John Cheeseman, Terry Hayes and Daniel Mudie Cunningham.

John Cheeseman:

Terry Hayes:

Daniel Mudie Cunningham:

And thanks to sexy superstar Master of Ceremonies, Anastasia Zaravinos.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Okay so not a lot has been happening online here but a lot has been going on out there in the “real” world. For starters artedalliance has been formed as a broad collective of community members focused on addressing ongoing issues facing arts education in Western Sydney; they recently held their first meeting at ICE (Information and Cultural Exchange) in Granville. Secondly the exhibition Serial Box Art Degree opened and continues on at Mori Gallery until the 28th July as an artistic response to: the axing of Fine Arts, Electronic Arts and Performance degrees; and the introduction of the new 'no frills' Bachelor of Contemporary Arts.

But what we haven't had yet is the opportunity for all parties involved (students, arts workers, artists, university academics, university management, local government, and anybody else involved with the broad arts community) to gather in the same room and discuss the key issues facing arts in Western Sydney. Lucky for us Blacktown Arts Centre have stepped up to rectify this by holding a two day forum as part of their Western Front 2007 public program. Unfortunately University of Western Sydney management have declined offers to take part or to be represented at the forum, but on the plus there will be representatives from WSROC, UNSW, Arts NSW, local Council Members, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Penrith Regional Gallery and Lewers Bequest, Urban Theatre Projects, Corroboree Arts and Craft co-op, as well as several local artists many of whom have studied in Western Sydney and continue to be involved in the Western Sydney community. There will be five sessions each day addressing a variety of topics including developments at the University of Western Sydney please contact Blacktown Arts Centre to find out exact times of the various topics, and come along - join the discussion!

The forum will take place this Friday and Saturday (20th and 21st July). All sessions are free.
Seating is limited – bookings advised, please call 02 9839 6558.
For more details visit

For more information about the artedalliance please email:

Labels: , , ,