Upcoming SAMAG Panel - Youth arts: why we should care what young people think

Strikers! Youth leading change change panel, Conversation Starters 2019: Temperature Rising, MCA Australia, 2 June 2019. Photo: Jodie Barker, Image courtesy: MCA Australia

Since getting back from my Churchill Fellowship, I’ve been working with the Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group (SAMAG) to co-produce the upcoming panel conversation Youth Arts: why we should care what young people think.

I’m going to be sharing some of my Churchill findings, as well as insights from the MCA GENEXT impact report before a panel of brilliant young people offer their insights and experiences working with six different Sydney arts organisations across the theatre, visual arts, music and heritage sectors.

Wednesday 11 September at MCA

5pm - MCA Young Guides tour of Shaun Gladwell: Pacific Undertow

6pm - Panel conversation with Q&A to follow

Tickets available here.

This quick style insight conversation will focus on the developing role and growth of youth committees and young people’s advisory groups within our arts and cultural organisations. What kinds of expertise do young people bring – as creative producers or advisors? What is their impact and how is the practice of our arts organisations responding to their contribution? How are young people being reached, communicated with and included in the arts beyond being sought as audience members? What does the arts sector look like to newcomers and what are some of the barriers to their involvement?

Join us if you can for a MCA Young Guide-led tour of Shaun Gladwell: Pacific Undertow at 5pm, and then hear from a panel of young people and youth arts workers about their experiences and advice on where organisations should start if they haven’t already.

MCA Australia
• Lucy Achhorner (MCA Youth Committee and Young Guide)
• Em Lienert (MCA Youth Committee and Young Guide)

Australian Theatre for Young People
• Emily Buxton
• Daisy Millpark

Casula Powerhouse Art Centre
• Madelaine De Leon (CPAC Youth)
• Stephanie Nguy (Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Youth)

Shopfront Arts Co-Op
• Carlee Heise (Young Leader)
• Daniel Potter (Executive Director/CEO, Shopfront Arts Co-Op)

Information Cultural Exchange
• Liliana Occhiuto (New Age Noise Collective)
• Jessica Paraha (New Age Noise Collective)

Sydney Living Museums
• Hayden Walsh (Producer of Indigenous Programs)

Presenter & Co-Producer
Jo Higgins (Young Creatives Coordinator, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2018 Churchill Fellow)

Sophie Harrington, SAMAG Committee Member and Public Program Manager, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

This seminar is a partnership between SAMAG and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.



Te Tuhi Talks

I’m off to Auckland next week to do some work with Te Tuhi. I worked with their Executive Director Hiraani Himona during my time at the South London Gallery and I’ve been doing some consultancy with Te Tuhi over the last six months, talking about their informal learning programs and plans for the future, which has been really exciting. I’m going to be spending some time working with their team before giving a talk as part of their public program series, Te Tuhi Talks on Wednesday 2 August.

This hour-long talk will focus on peer-led learning and partnership projects and reflect on my experiences working on the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Project in London; piloting Kaldor Public Art Project’s Regional Youth Engagement Program; and on my current role as Young Creatives Coordinator at the MCA. The talk will be followed by a workshop with youth educators and public programmers from across New Zealand, which I’m also really looking forward to.



Craft Council UK – Make:Shift conference, Manchester, 10-11 Nov, 2016

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Craft Council UK’s biennial Make:Shift conference in Manchester, as part of my work with the Australian Design Centre.

The focus, as Creative Director Annie Warburton noted, was to “showcase an extraordinary array of disruptive innovation taking place throughout craft but also interrogating, to what end?”


The keynote addresses, panel discussions, presentations and conversations were focused around the impact of craft innovation in three spheres: social innovation, environmental sustainability and wellbeing. They joined makers and designers with scientists, technologists and academics because, as Warbuton noted in her opening address, “community, connection and collaboration is what brings breakthrough” and it is vital to locate craft practice within 21st century innovations. “Traditional skills are just a different kind of technology and as important as high-end technology. Makers have always worked with new materials, transforming production processes along the way.”

Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society at University College London, gave the opening keynote address. It was a lively and fascinating discussion of materials in relation to the culture of making. He noted the creative tension and slight distrust between art and science, which he argued can be useful in helping to identify different views, outcomes and processes and cited his hilarious experience on the BBC4 show Chef v. Science as an example of this conflict. In the words of chef Marcus Wearing, “At the end of the day [making anything] is about love, care and understanding.” It’s not about scientifically recreating mashed potato just because you can.

Miodownik also unpacked some of our easy assumptions about new technology being better technology – citing the fact that despite its increasing prevalence, carbon is not a recyclable material and that solar cells, while allowing us to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, have nevertheless been designed with little care – they are objects stuck on roofs and not integrated into our lives. Miodownik argued that animate materials are in fact the future and cited the example of self-healing concrete roads, which was a provocative and exciting thought. Miodownik concluded by saying that, “the act of making is about growing our humanity” and that social consciousness through making will enable us to solve some of the problems facing us today.

In the afternoon, there was an engaging discussion on the use of digital technologies in craft education with Drummond Masterton, Head of Sustainable Product Design at Falmouth University and jeweller Sarah O’Hana.

O’Hana works with titanium and steel and was invited to undertake a PhD at Manchester University as part of the engineering department, exploring the use of lasers and titanium.

The experience led to a new body of work that sought to explain new research to new audiences through wearable objects. O’Hana talked about the creative disruption her presence brought to the engineering department and cited a failed experiment that left the engineer despondent and O’Hana excited, because its effect on the titanium offered new aesthetic and creative possibilities.

Masterton talked about the importance of language, particularly in a learning environment, and its ability empower or inhibit. For instance, an engineer does things precisely, using materials in the ways they are intended, but if you call them a craftsperson they suddenly have permission to take more risks, experiment with technology and uncover news ways of using machines and applying knowledge. He noted than even when teaching students today about 3D printing and other available technologies, there remains a persistent desire to still learn and understand ‘traditional’ ways of making. He argued that when it comes to technology (as both a tool and an industry) there needs to be a model with the use of technology that enables risk-taking and that this isn’t currently the case. His point – “technology won’t solve problems, people will.”

In discussing the crisis in craft education in the UK (and arguably everywhere) O’Hana reitered Masterton’s point, and argued that while it was important to have specialisms, the craft education sector must invite other cultures, such as architecture and IT communication, into our own culture to help understand and communicate need and value. Craft, she said, is bad at articulating its value to other sectors.

Highlights of the second day include the conversation between Daniel Charny, founder of creative cultural consultancy From Now Own and curator of the 2011 V&A exhibition The Power of Making and Hannah Fox, Silk Mill Project Director at Derby Museums.

The conversation was centred around the research Charny had undertaken for his report on the cultural role of maker spaces, which set out to articulate the differences between engagement with or engagement through making and what these means in terms of local communities but also crafts-based skills development. Makerspaces were discussed in the context of other making spaces – residencies, project labs and museums, and while the conversation made no fast conclusions about the future of maker spaces, there was a general agreement that the popularity of makerspaces was a reflection on a perceived lack of other spaces in which to informally make and learn and that, in the context of the work undertaken at the Silk Mill in Derby, it is vital that museums expand their perspective around what they can be and what they do.