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Arts degrees open doors to the art world



20 February 2013

Rhianna Walcott
Art History alumna, Rhianna Walcott, started her first industry job at the University Art Gallery. She is now Gallery Manager at Artereal Gallery. Image courtesy of Lachlan Nicholls and Karina Wikamto.

For two Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences alumnae, the road to landing dream jobs in the art world transpired from vastly different study paths.

Former Art History and Theory student Rhianna Walcott has put her passion into practice as gallery manager at Artereal in Rozelle, a space for contemporary art with a strong focus on international content.

A lightning bolt moment on a Year 10 excursion from Tamworth to Brett Whiteley's studio in Sydney first sparked Rhianna's aspirations for a career in the art space. Rhianna said she "suddenly knew without a doubt" that being an art curator was what she intended to pursue.

Just over two years later, Rhianna arrived at the University of Sydney with a Bruton Educational Trust Scholarship in hand. Awarded to rural students based on their academic merit, the scholarship provides $10,000 in support for each year of the degree.

Taking the change of pace to a city life in her stride, Rhianna maximised her opportunities at University by volunteering at several galleries to build insight and connections in the local art community. After interning with artists and at exhibition openings, she gained a placement at the University Art Gallery, which turned into her first industry job after six months.

"I'm very much indebted to the University of Sydney," she said. "I owe the University my education, and they gave me my first job in the arts industry and a scholarship that allowed me to study in the first place."

Rhianna believed her rigorous Art History major equipped her with the strong conceptual writing and analytical skills that she harnesses daily when liaising with the media, curators and artists.

"A typical day in the gallery is quite frenetic," said Rhianna. "Our exhibition program is usually developed at least 12 months in advance, and so we are always focused on both our current exhibition as well as those scheduled for the future.

"I felt it was important to learn as much as I could about the various art historical periods and movements. All of my classes were so interesting, [but] by the time I finished my degree, I was able to narrow down my interests and was convinced I wanted to work with contemporary Australian and international artists. I've had the pleasure to work with many amazing artists through Artereal Gallery."

Professor of Art History and Visual Culture, Mark Ledbury, said Art History presents an attractive study option for the complete spectrum of "creative, visually aware, and articulate people."

"The skills they learn in their studies with us, and the internship opportunities available, leadto many and varied careers in the arts, museums sectors but also to many opportunities in a world where visual literacy is increasingly prized."

Philippa Mott
Archaeology and Ancient History alumna, Philippa Mott, on an archaeological dig in Menorca, Spain. She is now Subscription

Meanwhile, fellow Arts alumna Philippa Mott gained a coveted position as Subscription Manager at Art & Australia Magazine through a far less linear approach.

Bombarded by study options upon finishing high school, Philippa considered taking up law, medicine, psychology and viticulture before her passion for the arts "won out".

And though originally enrolled in a Bachelor of Liberal (International) Studies, Philippa "fell so in love" with her Ancient History and Archaeology subjects she changed her degree focus. Incorporating diverse disciplines like Biology and introductory Spanish alongside her core Classics subjects proved "hugely complementary" for Philippa's multifaceted graduate job.

"My role is enormously diverse, and evolves in accordance with our publication deadlines, so a 'typical' day is rather a misnomer," she said.

"With its focus on research skills, critical analysis, structured arguments and verbal communication, studying Arts improved my confidence in public speaking, developing my own ideas and arguments, and refined my tone, clarity and form of expression. I now feel confident drafting a press release, pitching my ideas in meetings and seminars, or undertaking market research."

The impressive alumna accentuated these skills through a year abroad at the University of Edinburgh. She also peppered a six-month study break before her exchange with a smattering of prestigious internships in the art industry, including at the University of Sydney's Nicholson Museum, the Verge Festival, and in the Science Communication Department at the Australian Museum.

Through her background in Classics, Philippa won the Olwen Tudor Jones Scholarship for Mediterranean Archaeology, taking her on a month-long archeological dig on the Island of Menorca in Spain. During this placement her team unearthed a Late Roman Basilica as well as Phoenician, Visigoth and early Talayotic artifacts.

This wealth of experience enriched Philippa's art appreciation and helped prepare her for her new role's various responsibilities, which include monitoring subscription rates, readership demographics and the marketing and promotion of books and artworks.

Now five months into her job, Philippa has already worked with such world-renowned artists as Del Kathryn Barton, on a collaborated involving an illustrated fairy tale by Oscar Wilde. She also recently attended the opening of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane.

Underlying all of these endeavours is zeal for art events and "experiencing first hand the wonder and excitement that they can stir in their audiences."

"What I love most about my job, in the broadest sense, is that there are projects constantly in the wings."

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Contact: Emily Jones

Phone: 02 9114 1961

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