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Griffith University Under Fire: Why We Must Defend Art Institutions

In the face of Griffith University’s proposed closure of the Griffith University Art Museum (GUAM), we stand at a crossroads. This isn’t just a fight for a beloved institution; it’s a critical battle for recognition of the arts in our society.

As a former student of Queensland College of Art and Design (QCAD), The Griffith University Art Museum, nestled in the heart of the QCAD campus was an integral part of my educational experience.

For me, The Griffith University Museum of Art was a portal to the contemporary art world. As an art student, it is easy to become sheltered by the “art school bubble”, being handed exhibition opportunities in the campus galleries and delivered industry connections straight to our studios. As an institutional gallery, with an extensive art collection that hosts national and international exhibitions, The Griffith University Art Museum offers students an invaluable insight into the inner workings of the art industry.

exterior view of Griffith University Art Museum
Exterior of Griffith University Art Museum at night. Photo: INreview

Beyond the art itself, Griffith University Art Museum is a hub of learning and opportunity. The personalised talks with curators and gallery staff are akin to masterclasses, offering insights into the art world and the professional lives of artists. Students gain first-hand experience while volunteering at the gallery and many alumni credit a great deal of their success to the visibility granted by exhibiting with Griffith University Art Museum.

Griffith University has been attempting to cut funding for QCAD for years. From merging disciplines, diminishing degrees and cutting staff, the proposed closure of Griffith University Art Museum almost seemed inevitable.

queensland college of art and design students protesting the cut of staff and studios a few years ago
QCAD students protesting proposed staff and studio cuts in 2020. Photo: Cheryl Bronson

My distress is not just about losing a gallery; it’s about losing a crucial steppingstone for future generations of artists. QCAD’s reputation as a leading art school is intertwined with Griffith University Art Museum’s existence. Without it, students would graduate with talent, but without the industry knowledge and experience that GUAM provides.

Cutting funding for QCAD and GUAM is like cutting off the branch you’re sitting on. As Brisbane prepares for the 2032 Olympics, the city needs a thriving arts scene more than ever. GUAM, with its world-class collection, dedicated staff, and talented students, is a gold mine waiting to be tapped.

So, I stand with the many voices calling for Griffith University Art Museum’s preservation. It’s not just about bricks and mortar; it’s about the dreams and aspirations of countless artists, the cultural fabric of Brisbane, and the future of art itself. We must ensure GUAM’s doors remain open, not just for me, but for every student, artist, and art lover who seeks inspiration, knowledge, and a place to belong

Interns working with GUAM's art collection. Photo: Griffith University

The Importance of Art Institutions.

Art institutions like Griffith University Art Museum (GUAM) aren’t merely stockrooms for pretty pictures; they are vibrant ecosystems that nourish our minds, fuel creativity, and shape a more engaged and empathetic world. Here’s why we must defend GUAM and, by extension, all art institutions:

Art exhibitions prompt critical thinking

GUAM's curated exhibitions are more than visual spectacles; they stimulate critical discourse. They raise questions about our world, prompt us to examine our biases, and push us to think beyond the conventional. This exposure to diverse voices and perspectives is vital for fostering a more informed and engaged society in a world drowning in information overload.

Art Institutions foster empathy and social harmony

Art has the unique ability to bridge cultural divides and forge connections on a human level. GUAM's diverse programming provides a platform for marginalised voices, fostering understanding and respect for different lived experiences. This shared appreciation for art helps us break down barriers and build a more inclusive, compassionate society.

Galleries fuel innovation and economic growth.

The creative industries are a booming sector, contributing billions to economies worldwide. GUAM, as a hub for artistic innovation, plays a crucial role in nurturing the next generation of creative minds. By supporting artists, curators, and educators, we invest in a vibrant cultural landscape that attracts talent, drives innovation, and fuels economic prosperity.

Art nourishes us and enriches our lives.

Beyond its economic and social benefits, art offers a vital source of beauty, joy, and solace. GUAM's exhibitions provide a space for escape, reflection, and emotional connection. In a world often dominated by stress and negativity, art offers a vital escape valve, reminding us of our shared humanity and the beauty that surrounds us.

installation photograph of each, other
Exhibition view of 'Each, Other' -Currently showing at GUAM. Read the blog

Have Your Say

Griffith University Art Museum’s fight is not just about saving a gallery; it’s about defending the very values that make our society thrive.

Tomorrow (15/12/23) is the last day to have your say. Sign the change.org petition  and/or send a letter to guamfeedback@griffith.edu.au and pvcael@griffith.edu.au by Friday.

Rosie Bird

Rosie is an artist and creative innovator from Brisbane Australia. With two fine arts degrees and years of experience in the contemporary art world, she has acquired a wealth of industry knowledge. She founded open-folio as a way of creating a vibrant online community of contemporary artists and helping them reach their fullest potential.

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