Design Tracks: Creative Pathways and Beyond


‘Design Tracks’ is an annual residency program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary students from across Queensland.  Hosted by QAGOMA Learning, the 2019 program recently offered 21 students from Far North, Central and Western Queensland, as well as South-East and metropolitan locations rich opportunities to work alongside established Indigenous Australian creative mentors.

The program, now in its fourth year, encourages participants to feel inspired by the Creative Industries and to perhaps consider their own future career pathways. The students spent an immersive 3-days in Brisbane, collaborating, exploring, designing, learning and experiencing together. Four students share their thoughts about 2019 ‘Design Tracks’.

Debbie Brittain is Project Officer, Learning, QAGOMA

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Left to right: Jamaya (Bundaberg); Latasha (Rockhampton); Ishy (Cherbourg); Brooke (Bundaberg) / Photographs: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA

Jamaya (Bundaberg)

“I had an amazing ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. I explored behind the scenes of the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art and the steps exhibition organisers had to work through to display the story of famous artworks.

I was put into a team with new friends and talented mentor Grace Lillian Lee. I was so excited to meet with Grace, as she is one of the most incredible Indigenous fashion designers and weavers of wearable body art. Our task was to create a place in the cultural precinct that weaves together art, language and space. After a full first day of planning and processing ideas, we went for a walk through Fish Lane, and saw displays of amazing Indigenous art and restaurants.

Day 2 was more of a resolving day. Our group ‘The Backups’ considered each other’s ideas and decided to create a project that included common themes that weave through art, language and space. Later that evening, we were taken to Griffith University and explored the courses they offered and met more famous mentors. After that we went behind the scenes of the Bangarra Dance performance and explored before-and-after a performance – it was mind blowing.

Day 3 was a busy day, getting our ideas into pieces of work and organising our presentations. At the end it all came together and we were very proud of ourselves. This was an amazing program and I would recommend every Indigenous art student to explore this opportunity. Let’s make it a week’s program.” Jamaya

RELATED: Grace Lillian Lee: Island Fashion

Students hear from one of the 2019 Design Tracks Program lead mentors Grace Lillian Lee as she discusses her practice / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA
Students work together to resolve their creative project / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA

Latasha (Rockhampton)

“Being able to experience art being used in a real life context, sold the idea that art can provide a viable career pathway for me.  I was fortunate enough to spend time with other aspiring, like-minded, Indigenous students who shared my passion for art, at the Gallery of Modern Art.  The Program, a three-day residential camp, involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander senior secondary students coming together with other Cultural Centre precinct partners to work with Indigenous Australian mentors.  Along with 20 other students from years 10 to 12 we were exposed to design, print-making, textiles, visual art and architecture.

For a student from a regional area who has never really experienced Brisbane, it was a valuable exercise in seeing creative opportunities in action and opening my eyes to where my art can take me.  It was refreshing to be placed with a group of young Indigenous people who wanted to be there and work towards a common goal.

One idea that will always resonate with me, as explained by one of my mentors, is that any art created by me is Indigenous art, simply by the fact I am Indigenous and I created it. I would highly recommend this program for any aspiring Indigenous artist.” Latasha

Some of the 2019 Design Tracks participants, including 9 students from regional Queensland schools / Photograph: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA

Ishy (Cherbourg)

“The experience was an eye-opener for me as a young Indigenous male getting to spend time at the gallery. I really enjoyed working with the mentors, looking at artworks and meeting other Indigenous students from different schools.” Ishy

Ishy and Design Tracks lead mentor Sachem Parkin-Owens learn more about the QLD Museum Indigenous Australian Collection in a behind-the-scenes-tour that focussed on Country / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA
Group members presented their projects to guest panel members on the final day of the program / Photograph: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA

Brooke (Bundaberg)

“The Design Tracks Program at the Gallery of Modern Art was an amazing experience and I’m so proud to have been a part of it. The program as a whole was insightful, educational and inspiring, especially the half-day round table mentor experience. It opened my eyes to all the possibilities in the world of Indigenous art. I networked, made contacts and lifelong friends in an industry I am passionate about and wish to pursue into the future. It gave me an insight to the running of GOMA and other art galleries as well as seeing what happens behind the scenes in the life of a curator, artist, performer or a member of the conservation and storage teams. I learnt so much about life as a professional in the art world. It was an amazing experience working with the mentors over the three days to create our project and was an honour to be selected for such an amazing program.” Brooke

Design Tracks program included an exhibition viewing and talk about ‘I Object’, provided by Indigenous Australian Art curator Bruce McLean / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA
Design Tracks participants work in groups with their mentors to explore, gather, create and connect / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA

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Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land upon which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution Indigenous people make to the art and culture of this country.

Feature image: Students worked creatively to develop a response to the brief ‘create a place in the Cultural Precinct that weaves together language, art and story’ / Photograph: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA