Indigenous art and world class teaching on display for Minister

Federal Minister for Arts and Communications Mitch Fifield and local MP Nicolle Flint visited Flinders University Art Museum today (23 February) to view the University’s nationally significant collection of art, including historic Papunya boards.

Minister Fifield and Ms Flint, who initiated the visit, enjoyed a tour of the museum, which in the late 1970s was one of Australia’s first to take an active interest in Aboriginal art.

The museum’s ongoing support of Aboriginal artists and their communities since then has resulted in a collection of more than 4,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander works today.

A recently received Community Heritage Grant awarded through the Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts will enable the Art Museum to work with the Papunya community in assessing the significance of 122 boards acquired by Emeritus Professor JVS Megaw during a research trip to the south-central Northern Territory in the 1980s.

Purchased from the then newly formed Papunya Tula Artists Inc and including works by the community’s most senior and celebrated artists, the assessment will result in better understandings of the values, meanings and importance of the works, taking into consideration the views of the Papunya community today, including direct descendants of the original painters.

Flinders University Art Museum Director Fiona Salmon said Flinders was honoured to have had the opportunity to show some collection highlights to the Federal Minister for the Arts and to share the value of the collection in teaching, learning and research.

“University art collections are extraordinary academic resources; they are a platform for collaboration and engagement, and a bridge between people, knowledge and ideas,” said Ms Salmon.

“Here at Flinders, the Art Museum has been leading initiatives to raise the profile and possibilities of collections-based teaching, including a federally funded research project exploring the power of art as a cross-disciplinary teaching tool.

“As Director of Flinders University Art Museum and Chair of University Art Museums Australia, I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak with the Federal Minister for Arts and Communications Mitch Fifield and local MP Nicolle Flint about the value of university art collections in developing creative, enterprising and career ready graduates.”

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