Art education has occupied a generally precarious position within Australian society and tertiary institutions over the last three decades, enrolments determined as much by unemployment figures and social attitudes to art and artists as institutions’ and government’s commitment to its value, whether that is calculated according to the economic contributions of the ‘arts and entertainment industries’, or acknowledgement of the foundational importance of bigger but less quantifiable notions of creativity, innovation, ethical practice, and the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.
Yet the precarity of art education might also be seen as its strength. Tertiary institutions and government funding regimes’ focus on ‘industry engagement’, ‘Job-ready graduates’ and clearly delineated ‘Vocational outcomes’ presuppose a predictability that is in denial of the crises and uncertainties in the world at large. So, what if challenging those goals, and the ability to withstand the institutional consequences, can be harnessed as its superpower?
This paper sets out to explore that proposition: if art education aims to instil the capacity for adaptability, experimentation, failing better, criticality, resilience, and life-long learning, could this be enough to maintain its status in the higher education sector?