How practical experience can launch your visual arts career

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How practical experience can launch your visual arts career

Amber Smith studied a BA of Design Arts at LCI Melbourne. Image: Supplied

With a background in illustration, Amber Smith knew she wanted to further her practice by studying art. But it was the hands-on experience she received at LCI Melbourne, while undertaking her Bachelor of Design Arts (Visual Arts), that allowed her to realise her passion for curation.

‘I always knew I wanted to study visual arts but wasn’t sure where it would take me or what an arts practice was before I started studying,’ said Smith, a former student at LCI Melbourne who now works as a curator and visual arts programmer in Geelong.

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‘I thought, “Oh, I like art so I’ll do a degree in it,” and the course definitely helped me to figure out what I was interested in, where to take my practice and how to express it.’

Part of her training at the Melbourne-based design school was a practical placement, where she was able to further gauge the direction in which she wanted to move.

‘One of my placements was in a retail gallery, and through that I realised that I really liked curation, I liked arranging things,’ Smith told ArtsHub.

‘I think having the chance to have a taste of something really shows you whether it’s for you or not, which I found really helpful.’


The interior design room at LCI Melbourne. Image: Supplied

Combined with the work she undertook in the final year of her course, Smith’s practical placement helped her decide on a career in curation.

‘Once I got to third year, I started working with objects; looking a lot at natural history, and connection to nature and place, and how objects can tell a story,’ she said. ‘Primarily I had an illustration practice, so I did a lot of ornithological drawings.

But once I got to third year I started looking more at connection and assemblage and allowing objects to tell a story rather than relying on a drawing practice or anything like that.’ 

The Bachelor of Design Arts at LCI Melbourne can be completed over three years full-time or two years fast-tracked full-time, with students able to specialise in Visual Arts, Communication Design, Fashion and Costume Design, Filmmaking and Photography, Graphic and Digital Design, or Interior Design. 

The school’s small class sizes were part of the appeal for Smith and a determining factor when choosing where to study.
‘Based on my personality type, I was quite anxious about going somewhere with a big lecture theatre with 100 other students – that whole thing kind of made me really nervous. I like that it was between 10-14 students in a class; I liked the one-on-one mentoring rather than just having a tutor.’ 

Currently Smith works at Geelong’s Courthouse Youth Arts as a curator and visual arts programmer. She said the skills she learned while studying at LCI Melbourne have been invaluable for her in this position.

‘We learned a lot about grant applications and how to keep an arts organisation afloat in addition to HR stuff such as how to deal with artists and managing events, and these things have become really helpful for openings and other kinds of festival events we do here,’ she said.

‘While there is a creative side to the role, there’s also a lot of arts admin. So doing those units in professional practice and arts management have become invaluable to what I do here.’ 

LCI Melbourne is now taking enrolments for their course intake in February 2019. Visit www.lcimelbourne.edu.au for details.

About the author

Sabine Brix is a writer, editor, podcaster and electronic musician with a specific interest in personal storytelling that captures the essence of why people create. She was the former Online Content Producer at Archer Magazine and editor of the LGBTI website: Gay News Network.

She has produced sound art for BBC's Radio4  and composed music for the web series Starting From Now, which screened on SBS.

Follow Sabine on Twitter @sabinebrix