NAVA’s online forum to scale new heights for the art community

Celebrating its 30th anniversary last year, the National Association for the Visual Arts commemorates this milestone with the launching of an online forum at the beginning of May.

Brianna Munting, Deputy Director for NAVA, spoke to ARTIST PROFILE about this exciting new phase, and what this online development will entail for emerging artists and the Art community.

Why the evolution to the NAVA online forum from your previous printed products and services? How will this further benefit artists?
The reason that we have decided to focus on the online environment is that it enables us to a produce a whole range of materials; from videos and podcasts to online seminars and forums, and assist artists at all stages of their careers.  For us it was really important to also make sure that the content we were developing spoke of the diversity of voices in it, we didn’t just want NAVA’s presence to be the overarching one, we wanted artists to be able to speak to each other in a language that would be understood by the community.  It was integral to put the creative practitioners at the heart of this online development.

With the key focuses on communication, advocacy and advice on the online forum, you have also included a NEWS blog on the site – why do you think this is an important tool and how can artists be involved?
We have a very strong advocacy history as an organization, and we wanted to have our community engaged and feeling that their voices were heard.  It’s also a method to garner support, as well as let people know what changes are happening and these changes might be at a local, state or Federal policy development level.  We wanted to create an active and engaged community who knew what was happening, and knew how to speak and respond to the changes in our sector.

What are some of the obstacles do you hope to overcome with the online forum?
We found that every time someone wanted to take up an opportunity, or setup an exhibition or a project or an artist-run initiative, it was a kind of re-writing the wheel.  We wanted to look at what artists needs were throughout their career.  People tended to say to us “I don’t have a standard career”, and what we really wanted to do with this website is challenge this assumption, to say hey you’re not alone and everyone does something differently, but often there are overlaps and let’s actually show this shared space and create a community that can cross geographies and cross practices and find those similarities to build the strength of the sector.

How will the online Connect Courses operate and what will emerging artist learn from these courses?
We’ve partnered with the Omnilab, which is part of the College of Fine Arts, to deliver seven-week courses that are intensive and online; both community building courses as well as practical-based courses that will help artists. Each of the courses are kind of steeped in this idea of giving people a practical outcome in the end; so they might have a business plan, a marketing plan, a social media strategy or a grant template example or an artists statement.  In the case of build a basic website, they’ll also have an actual website that will be produced at the end of the course.  We didn’t just want it to be rhetorical, we wanted it to be applicable to people’s lives.

So the aim is to breach that huge learning curve that a lot of new artists emerging from art school face?
Exactly it’s about that question of where do you go next; we want to be that first stop.  So when you do finish Art College you are not going okay, what am I going to do now, you have NAVA that will actually support you through not only developing your practice, but also developing the practical aspects of your career.

So in relation to that – how is the online forum going to function – what are the new levels of memberships and what do they involve?
There will be three levels; the first one is what we call a ‘free forever’, so you sign up and get a ebulletin and get access to industry news, as well as selected opportunities.  We then have ‘Premium Level’, which is a monthly payment, which grant access to a list of all of the grants awards, prizes and competitions across Australia.  You’ll also get access to the Professional Development fact sheets, templates and checklists, so if you are looking for example at setting up your own artist run initiative we will take you through the process of what government models, where you can access funding for it. We are supporting people through each of those opportunities that may come up in their career.
The third tier is the Premium Plus, which includes all the benefits of the other levels, as well as public liability and professional indemnity insurance.  We are able to provide insurance at a much more affordable price than if they were trying to do it themselves.  One of the new features that we are really excited to provide is the code of practice, where anyone from the industry or external to it will be able to access the best practice and ethical standards for working in the arts industry for free, which is a new initiative of NAVA’s.

Can you tell us about your new online video interviews?
We have two different ways that we have done the video interviews; one is under the broad heading of ‘The Artist Files’. Last year we produced an event in parliament house that looked at developing a National Visual Arts Agenda, as well as celebrating NAVA’s 30th anniversary.  We had the Governor General and Minister in attendance, we had artists from the community and representatives of the industry, as well as those that work with NAVA.  We had Nell, Tony Albert, Sally Smart, Craig Walsh, and Lindy Lee, and we did a series of interviews with the artists; how they have made a career, how they have traversed going from art school to the industry, what are the key issues or needs, how they have earned an income and why they think art is important. So the Artist Files look at how artists have done what they do and why it is important.
We also have done a whole lot of videos that look at key questions that artists may face at different stages of their career. For us it was about celebrating this diversity of voices and this practice to ensure that we are promoting and supporting the thinkers and creators of our contemporary society.  So there is this access point for people to see the similarities of experience across careers.

What do you envisage this means for NAVA and it’s members?  Are there further phases in development already?
In this first phase we have looked at the basic needs and then we want to keep working on growing what we have produced, but then again making sure that we are supporting the industry as we do it.  We want to make sure that the artists, curators, writers and commercial gallerists voices are heard throughout the site.  Also we are looking at developing the second phase of this is a series of online forums and discussions that look at those key issues for change; issues of who owns public space, the role of the artist after art school and having a range of online forums that will tease out some on the changes that happening in the art sector.  We do want to have those discussions, we see those online dialogues – as provocations – what are we also wanting it to be – what do we want five or ten years down the track.  How do we want to imagine the future of contemporary Australian art?

National Association for the Visual Arts

Photography by Joan Cameron-Smith. Courtesy the National Association for the Visual Arts.

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