Visual Arts peers

Mish Meijers

Mish Meijers, TAS - Visual Arts Peer

If you were to encourage a colleague to become a Peer – what would you tell them…

About the time commitment required?

I found it took longer than I thought it would, so I would recommend setting aside a weekend soon after you get access to the applications to see how many you can happily read and give equal amounts of attention to. Depending on the panel you are reading for will alter the amount of time it takes, but I would say put aside approx 10 days, maybe a little less maybe a bit more.

You have learned about your sector?

That it's much more complex and diverse than I first realised, that under that one heading of visual arts, so many sub categories exist.

That each section of the visual arts community is working really, really hard and punching well above its weight on the smell of a oily rag.

Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings? What should you be prepared to do? 

Gosh, it would be so weird if they did! Having said that I think most people want to be in agreement with each other and with majority discussion of the room, which is mostly reasonable most of the time.

BUT, if you feel really strongly about a current debate or a side of the debate that is not being spoken about, I saw it as my job to bring it up. Sometimes, that was not 'with' the room, sometimes it was adding to a current discussion.

You are encouraged to speak your mind and you should feel comfortable to make a case that could sway the opinion of the room or maybe it won't.  So be prepared to speak up, to listen and to know that you will be listened to but not always agreed with.

All the panels I have been on have have one thing in common, at times heated debates happen, but its always with respect. It is your job to both speak your mind and listen, to debate and concede where appropriate, but to always speak up especially if you feel its important.

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?

Reading applications from both arts organisations and individual artists in the visual arts sector with their diversity of practices has been immensely rewarding experience for a number of reasons. Each application is a distillation of those artists and organisations overall practice, and show an enormous breadth in material and conceptual research. It is an amazing snapshot of the Australian arts sector.Being able to meet other peers with diverse and specialist backgrounds from across the nation to discuss art is a pretty wonderful gig, and being from a regional area of Australia, I think that its incredibly healthy to look outside your local arts community for a time to view it within a truly national scope.

I think this also true for those who reside in major populations centers. Ultimately you get to go into a room full of lovely and lively people from a diverse arts sector, talk about exciting projects, learn about the new directions of artists you might be familiar with already and discovering some you don't know. 

Also you can get in early the day before the meeting and do a gallery crawl. But mostly, I think the nature of the experience broadens your thinking, which is invaluable and incredibly rewarding.

Shane Breynard

Shane Breynard, ACT - Visual Arts Peer

If you were to encourage a colleague to become a Peer – what would you tell them…

About the time commitment required?

The materials and processes made available to Peers are very well organised so that time spent assessing is well spent, without being hampered by any lack of clarity, or administrative or process issues. 

You have learned about your sector?

I was impressed by the simplicity and clarity with which the best applications expressed the ideas behind their project and the value that it would have for their own practice, for participants and audiences. 

Each round I assessed included exciting proposals that responded to changing cultural currents and explored new ways to enrich our experience. Of course there are always far more deserving projects than can be funded.

I was delighted to discover the strong encouragement Australia Council staff provide to applicants, including follow up advice to increase an applicants chances of success following an application that did not receive funding.

Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings? What should you be prepared to do? 

Peer assessment meetings are always stimulating and, for me, were valuable learning experiences. But be warned, active debate is encouraged and will often reveal that you have brought attitudes and assumptions into the meeting that you may not even have been aware that you had.

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?Working as a Peer with the Australia Council for the Arts gives you a unique insight into the profound achievements and aspirations of our nation's artists and arts organisations.

It leaves you with a deep understanding of how successful arts projects and careers are built, and how the best art is helping Australians to participate more fully in their communities and regions, and as global citizens. 

Robyn Backen

Robyn Backen, VIC Visual Arts Peer

If you were to encourage a colleague to become a Peer – what would you tell them…

About the time commitment required?

It is important to know that you need to dedicate time to read and assess all the grant applications on top of the two days of final assessing with the group of peers. Each application needs on average 10-15minutes on the first read through and this is where it is important to write pertinent comments to reference in the meeting. 

You have learned about your sector?

I found the process fascinating; I was introduced to so many very interesting project proposals and exhibition plans. What the process reinforced was that we are desperately under funded—so many inspired proposals missed out on funding this round.  

Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings? What should you be prepared to do?

The meeting of peers is a place for many voices including a facilitator who very carefully draws out responses from everyone at the table. This is a delicate process especially as the peers come from different positions in the art world. We had robust debates as well as we made some unanimous decisions—especially the top ranking applications. 

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?

The experience reinforced the importance of the process of Peer Review; bringing together experts in the art field—established artists, curators, writers, academics and gallery directors. It is a transparent process where experimentation and excellence is supported. I really enjoyed the opportunity to work behind the scenes and to give back to the Australia Council after many years of support for the development of my art practice. 

Serena Bentley

Serena Bentley, VIC Visual Arts Peer

What is the best and worst thing about being an assessor?

It’s a privilege to read through applications that give you insight into the breadth, vision and ambition of practitioners from across Australia and to assist in the promotion of artists and their ideas.

You’ll also be working alongside a diverse and talented bunch of peers, who each bring their own perspective and expertise to panel conversations, encouraging you to think about contemporary practice from different angles.

On the flip side, I don’t know if I’d call it the ‘worst’ thing, but certainly the most challenging aspect of the assessment process is working through the sheer volume of applications – it does take a lot of time to read them all.

What should potential peers know before becoming an assessor?

It’s a time consuming process and it’s hard – but very rewarding – work.  You’re going to need to set aside a significant amount of time to read through and analyse over 100 applications. 

In the assessment room, there are applications that assessors will agree on unanimously and then there are others that you might really believe in that you need to be prepared to fight for.

Sometimes it’s your job to step up and talk up an application to convince your peers that it’s fundable, so you need to be confident in doing that.

Amy-Clare McCarthy Amy-Clare McCarthy, QLD Visual Arts Peer

What is the best and worst thing about being an assessor?

The best thing is having that time in the meetings to talk about practices and projects from across the country with other peers, it's great to be part of those conversations and see the rigour that goes into the process and discussion. Easily the worst thing is knowing that many deserving applications won't get funded.

What should potential peers know before becoming an assessor?

It's incredibly daunting to open the scorecard and begin to read through the applications to assess. That feeling doesn't necessarily ease, but if you take it one application at a time, refer back to the criteria and trust in your knowledge, you will make it through the reading and scoring. You know how much those grants can mean to artists and organisations, which makes it a nerve wracking but ultimately rewarding experience.

Marie Falcinella Marie Falcinella, SA - Visual Arts Peer

What is the best and worst thing about being an assessor?

The best thing about being an assessor is the insight you get to the breadth of creative projects happening in the visual arts sector nationally. The worst thing is that there isn't an endless amount of money to be able to support all of those fantastic artists, organisations, projects and ideas. 

What should potential peers know before becoming an assessor?

The discussion that takes place during the assessment meetings is robust and inclusive. You are there because of your own unique experience and knowledge of the arts, which is valued. Trust your judgement and come prepared to contribute to some great discussion.

Ruark Lewis Ruark Lewis, NSW - Visual Arts Peer

 
What is the best and worst thing about being an assessor?

As an artist and curator, the best thing is having the opportunity of surveying a wide range of contemporary art. I found that there are so many worthy artists, but not all can be awarded their due recognition. Seeing how important it is as an applicant to keep information concise, the writing simple and the goals recognisable.

What should potential peers know before becoming an assessor?

You need to dedicate about one solid week to reading the applications with equal attention, and try to examine the unique contribution an applicant provides to the ongoing national story.

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