Design Tracks is a highlight in the QAGOMA Learning calendar. Each year the Gallery works closely with program partners at GILIMBAA to bring together Indigenous Australian artists, designers and leaders in the creative industries to connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students.
Now in its fourth year, 2019 will see alumni return with new voices from the performing arts, media, fashion and visual art between 27 – 29 August. Jo-Anne Driessens, one of five lead mentors from Design Tracks 2018 shares her experience of last year’s program.
In 2018, Design Tracks students gathered again at QAGOMA during July which is a great time of year in Brisbane, the winter months create stunning blue skies, a hype of fitness activity along the Kurilpa boardwalk, the buzz of cars driving on the freeway and occasional waves washing up from the City Cat. With the perfect setting, all dedicated QAGOMA staff and mentors are prepped and equipped to receive the next generation of committed Design Tracks students ready to explore, gather, create and connect towards a unique public art pitch relevant to the Cultural Precinct.
There is a true sense of ‘teen spirit’ and eagerness to understand the challenges that lie ahead over the three day program and an obvious sense of enthusiasm for everyone involved. With five Indigenous mentors assigned to a small group each, it was important to make an immediate bond so the work towards the design challenge was instant. Being one of the five mentors involved it was just as a rewarding experience for myself as it was for the students involved, allowing the conversations to flow more freely as the time passed by throughout the program.
The fact that the Design Tracks program is all about challenging young minds to think out of the box towards their own design concepts, the environment to do this was ideal and there was no shortage of resources. The students were able to experience first-hand public art examples such as Judy Watson tow row, 2016 work that welcomes all foot traffic in, out and around GOMA’s front entrance. The benefit of the tow row work also provided a strong link between QAGOMA and the Queensland Museum as the original fishing net that Watson referenced for the bronze sculpture was presented during the students visit to the back storage areas of the Museum. It was so good to see an Indigenous staff member at each major institution receive all of the student’s. Each Indigenous staff member holds an important role and are able to share not only the story of the collections they are in contact with, but their own story and journey into those roles – which was just as important for a program designed to highlight career opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.
When the floor talk with Bruce McLean and Tony Albert occurred, I remember standing up the back with a colleague of mine and we both commented on how great it was for the students to experience this moment in time with someone like Albert and at this stage of his career and wondered whether the students might reflect back on to draw on this type of inspiration one day.
The icing on the cake was revealed at the end of day three when all mentors and students had to finalise their public art commission and present to an industry panel being the Gilimbaa team who provide ongoing support for the program and are practically an integrated part of the Cultural Precinct based on Grey Street.
The results were impressive and innovative with all students congratulated with detailed feedback provided by the panel which helped the groups understand a final and important layer to completing the challenge. Who knows? Each original mini-model from the groups could very well be archived and possibly accessioned one day to sit amongst the other significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects in the collection for many more generations to enjoy.
Jo-Anne Driessens is Senior Arts and Culture Project Officer, City of Gold Coast
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