I completed my BVA at Sydney College for the Arts, and later went on to do my post-graduate Masters at the College for the Arts, now UNSW Art and Design. My decision to do so was based on not wanting a singular voice to inform my art education. If art is about a larger conversation, if it is about an exchange of dialogue, then that needs to happen, first and foremost, in it’s own local as a first step. We can not talk to the world if we do not know how to talk amongst ourselves. Anyone who suggests that a homogenous experience of the arts is a step towards excellence clearly has no insight into the multi faceted ways the visual arts are informed.
Indeed, the art inside this building here today would suffer for a lack of diversity. And we acknowledge that the art about to be unveiled here today in these exhibitions is only one small sample of the massive diversity out art institutions produce. A homogenised art will take decades for the rot to set in, occurring at the same time we celebrate what we have to lose. It will take many more decades to resurrect – and only then if there is the will.
I have been fighting for the last two decades on primarily the same issue, but at no time more important than today. As our cultural leaders boast ever increasing attendance figures to our institutions, and rightfully demand their expansion – which we support – do we as Sydney siders – a global city I am informed – want to be a city that produces our own culture, our own stories, or only one which imports it from elsewhere.
From the best available evidence to which has been made public, there is no merger between SCA and UNSWAD. This is a disappearance. It is a disappearance of a cultural legacy gifted to the University of Sydney under the so called Dawkins Revolution. In 1993, as a young boy from Tasmania, I applied to three institutions; College for the arts at UNSW, Sydney College for the Arts, and east Sydney technical college, now National Art School… Sydney College for the arts was the only institution that accepted me. As I stand here today, with my art exhibited inside this building, and celebrating many other international achievements, I ask you to consider that diversity isn’t just the voices these produce, but those that they accept. There is no way I believe a singular art institution, no matter how excellent, (and how unexceptionally so those are choosing to lead such an adventure), can truly represent the diverse range of voices which make up our city of Sydney.
Let’s be clear here for what we are fighting for: An infringement on our diversity – as artists, as a people, as a city as different from Melbourne or Adelaide or Brisbane. As different as SCA, UNSWAD, as NAS – A diversity of voices excites, it stimulates a confluence of opinions – a conversation. A singular voice is one, once again, no matter how excellent, is one easily controlled, even manipulated, by the state. Today, I ask you to celebrate diversity – because anyone moronic enough to champion a singular Centre for Excellence – without irony – has been completely unaware of the arts debate of the last twelve months – and do not deserve the privilege of leading our arts future.