How did you find out about the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Leadership Program?
I was just browsing online and came across the program. I thought to myself, just give it a go, but I did surprise myself by being accepted. I saw the program as my opportunity to get back into the arts. I had been working in different areas for a few years but I have an Associate Degree in Aboriginal Art and a Bachelor of Art (ARTS) and didn’t want those three years of hard work to just go to waste. During the ten day program we had a tour of the conservation area at the National Gallery of Australia and it sparked a real interest for me.
Had you always had an interest in art conservation?
No, I didn’t know a thing about it. I knew that I loved painting but I didn’t know about the other areas of arts administration and management. The Leadership Program gave me insight into what went on behind the scenes.
So what happened when you got home from the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Leadership Program?
As soon as I got home I contacted the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) to find out what I needed to do to become a qualified art conservator. I went online, found the contact details for the head of conservation and emailed him. I requested to do some volunteer work at the Gallery and when I went in to meet with the staff I asked about the next steps I should take.
Are you still involved with AGWA?
Right now I take one day a week off my regular job so that I can volunteer in the conservation department at AGWA. I work with conservators that specialise in both paintings and objects. I wish I could do it everyday. They have advised me to undertake more training in the area, and so I have applied and been accepted into a Masters Degree in Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne.
That’s exciting. So you are moving to Melbourne?
Yes, I have never even visited Melbourne, so it is a big move. Perth is where I am from, I have family and connections there but Melbourne University is the only place that offers this degree, so I am moving next February.
I don’t want to turn up to university with blind folds on. I know that a requirement of the degree is to have a basic knowledge of chemistry so I am currently enrolled in TAFE and three days a week I brush up on my chemistry skills. My work place, the Coolabaroo Housing Service (part of Moorditch Gurlongga Association Inc), is being incredibly supportive of this journey.
You are back at the National Gallery of Australia as a mentor with the 2012 Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Program. How are you finding this?
Yes, I thought it would be good to come back and share ideas and views with this year’s group. And it’s been brilliant. Each year, the program just gets better and better. I would really encourage any Indigenous people with a background in the arts to apply; it provides a great insight into what goes on in the industry. But after the program finishes, it’s up to you and what you do this with this knowledge. The program is designed to increase the number of Aboriginal people working within the visual arts industry, but once the 10 days is over you have to have the passion to take initiative and follow your dreams.
What is your goal for the future?
To be employed in an art gallery as a conservator. I don’t want to limit myself to only working with Aboriginal art; I want to work with all types of art. But I am still passionate about the conservation of Indigenous art. If an arts centre contacted me and said there was conservation work to be done, I would be there.
Telephone: (08) 8302 0870
The second National Indigenous Art Triennial, unDisclosed, features contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, whose daring exploration of new fields of practice and artistic vision, inform and redefine contemporary Indigenous art as we presently know it.
unDisclosed opened at the National Gallery of Australia in May 2012. Bradley Harkin, who had participated in the 2011 Leadership Program, was invited back to the NGA to assist with the install. “During this period I gained extensive knowledge of the installation and handling requirements of the works featured in unDisclosed. My Fellowship Project leads on from this experience,” says Bradley who through his Fellowship project has been working with the Travelling Exhibitions Department at the National Gallery of Australia to install unDisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial in Samstag.
unDisclosed explores the spoken and the unspoken, the known and the unknown, what can be revealed and what cannot. Through a variety of media, artists share their individual and collective response through the layers of hidden and subtle meanings, placed alongside those which are obvious.