Jan Murray in front of Bramante's Tempietto

Guest post: Jan Murray (Head of the School of Art)

Artist and academic Jan Murray reflects on her 32 years at the VCA; first as an art student and now as the Head of the School of Art.

By Alix Bromley

Jan Murray completed her postgraduate qualifications at the VCA and RMIT. She has received an Australia Council Project Grant and her Australia Council Residencies include Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Via Farini, Milan and in 2010 the British School at Rome, Rome. Her work has been included in national and international surveys of contemporary art in Australia, Germany, France, Italy and the USA.

Her work is widely represented in significant Australian public collections and she has also been collected by the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She is represented by Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne.

Jan is the Head of the School of Art and Honours Coordinator and has taught at the VCA since 1983.

Jan’s reflection

When I first arrived at VCA in 1980 as a somewhat naïve, but very keen student, fresh from Ballarat, I felt enormously privileged to be accepted into such an esteemed institution.

In the intervening 32 years my own attitude has not changed greatly. I still feel extremely proud to be a part of a school with such an illustrious past and the promise of an equally exciting future, a school contributing significantly to the visual art culture of this city and state, and ultimately to the cultural fabric of our nation.

Many things have changed – our physical relocation, our fourfold increase in student numbers, the expansion and diversification of our graduate and postgraduate programs, the marriage with our former ‘rival’ – Prahran Fine Art and the affiliation and eventual integration into the University of Melbourne are the most immediately apparent.

Less externally obvious perhaps are the pressures generated by changes (read reductions) to our funding, making the recent Victorian Government Arts Funding initiative all the more welcome.

Crucially, distinguishing characteristics survive: our absolute focus on contemporary art practice; our belief in intensive, immersive studio-based teaching where the one to one tutorial is privileged; and we continue to highly prize the key aspect of the ‘atelier model’ by offering studio accommodation to all our full-time students, from first year through to PhD.

We could speculate endlessly regarding the ingredients that make an art school great: Location, buildings and facilities are important. Generous sharing of insight and diligent transfer of accumulated knowledge from one generation to another builds history, tradition and reputation.

In our case, I believe the success of the School of Art is due to its staff and students and the conditions of learning in which they interact. Responsiveness to evolving visual art culture and technological change together, with the nurturing of discourse and the excitement of shared discovery engenders within students attitudes that they carry with them beyond the institution and serves them well – wherever they go, whatever they do.

(When asked) I describe my own experience as a postgraduate student at VCA as simply life changing! Little did I know when I was accepted into the course on my second try, that I would teach in the School of Art for close to 30 years let alone that sometime in the distant future I would be Head of the School of Art – treading in the footsteps of so many illustrious former ‘Deans’ and ‘Heads’.

A version of this article originally appeared on Channel, the Faculty’s previous publishing platform.