When Beata Tworek completes the Master of Contemporary Practices in Art and Design (MCPAD), it’ll be the third Masters degree she’ll have under her belt, and her second degree in total from the Australian National University.
She laughs when I tell her that she’s accumulated a lot of tertiary qualifications.
“That’s correct! I’ve done art history and chemistry. I studied conservation here in Canberra. And then I did some anthropology at ANU,” Beata, who is 59, says.
After doing a degree in the conservation of cultural materials, Beata went on to work at the National Gallery of Australia – or what was then called the Australian National Gallery in 1986, when she started.
“I was the only person working in object conservation – dealing with mainly three-dimensional things. So, everything that is not a painting, a work on paper, a photograph, or a textile,” Beata explains.
Thirty-five years on, she is still a conservator there now working part-time after retiring from her Senior Conservator position a year and a half ago.
“I’m actually partially retired now, which allows me to enjoy my degree,” she says.
“I’m at the time of my life when I can just do things for fun without having to have a piece of paper in the next number of years, or what you normally do when you do your first degree when time is a pressure and you have to make your living and do all sorts of other things.”
She adds: “This is the ‘all sorts of other things’ that I’m doing.’”
Beata has always loved photography and used it across her whole working and non-working career. Her father was also a conservator, as well as a photographer, and she spent many years travelling with him “doing lots of photography everywhere”.
“So I decided that when I retired, I want to pursue this,” she says.
Photography is what Beata is majoring in in the MCPAD. What that looks like, in enrolling in the art history course, was choosing to study the history of photography, the technology of photography in a historic sense, and looking at artistic movements relevant to photography. Next semester, Beata is hoping to get more hands-on, and learn about studio photography, lighting techniques, and more.
In talking about what sets the Masters degree apart from studying art and design at the undergraduate level, she says: "I'm at the postgraduate level, so obviously it involves a lot of in-depth research at a higher level of theory and practice and ability to think creatively than what is required at the undergraduate level."
Beata began her degree, part-time, just before COVID turned the world on its head. As with teaching and education everywhere, what and how Beata ended up studying last year wasn’t quite what was expected. However, she’s taken it in her stride and appreciated how her lecturers and fellow students adapted to the challenges.
“My grandmother always said, ‘God laughs when people make plans’,” she says.
“We did what we could, posting the proposed artworks for others to critique and so on, and that was very useful. And it was really good to have somebody else making professional comments about what would work better and what other avenues could be explored – which is why I joined the course, basically. Because otherwise it’s not much fun trying to figure it all out by yourself.”
Written by Evana Ho