Perth-based Louise Dickmann had been teaching for 10 years when she decided to go back to university – as a student.
She knew what she wanted to do: update and deepen her knowledge of art history. The problem? She couldn’t get that on her side of the country.
“For someone like myself – mature age, commitments, work – there was no way I could uproot myself to study in another city,” Louise says.
“ANU was the only place that offered post-graduate studies by coursework in Art History to distance students.”
Louise, who is also a practicing artist, proceeded to undertake her Master of Art History and Curatorial Studies alongside teaching part-time at TAFE. Across her five years, she only came to the ANU campus twice. Despite this, she felt totally connected to the ANU community.
There were some fundamental reasons behind this. Firstly, the IT infrastructure, which reliably supplied her with recordings of all her lectures. She also found the library support exceptional.
“I could go anywhere a Canberra-based student wanted to go in the digital realm,” Louise says.
“As well, when the ANU Library ran a skills development workshop, I would tell them I was based in Perth and they’d send me handouts and be available for personal conversations.
“Between IT and the ANU Library and the systems that support those departments, it’s been absolutely fantastic.”
Louise also emphasises the goodwill of ANU School of Art and Design staff as being a major contributor.
“I had four or five different lecturers and they went out of their way to maintain personal contact,” she says.
“Being a distance student means you can’t go to tutorials, and they would make sure I had the same information as students on campus in every case.”
By the time she met her lecturers in person, she says it was like meeting old friends because she felt she knew them so well already.
“It’s just not difficult to be a distance student with all this technology.”
The final full year of Louise’s degree proved quite an interesting one. She stood as a candidate for the Western Australian Legislative Assembly for the The Greens W.A., and, separate of politics, found her career going in a whole new direction.
She described her foray into politics as an interesting experience and an “eye-opener.”
“My most recent body of work is a kind of humorous set of proposals about the absurdities of trophy hunting, horse racing, gun culture, and so on. In a way, my work developed over time into being generally political and I suppose those interests also resulted in me having more to do with political activities.”
The year 2017 was bookended by the announcement of Louise’s candidacy at one end, and landing a job as a curator at the other.
“Most of my units were done, and the opportunity came up,” Louise recalls.
“I applied saying that I was completing my course, and that’s how that happened!”
As curator, she’s responsible for the art collection of one of WA’s largest metropolitan local councils. She also contributes to the council’s wider visual arts program of exhibitions.
“Securing this opportunity would never have happened without doing post-graduate studies at ANU,” Louise says.
Louise is looking forward to settling into her new profession, which has been a pleasant but surprising development for her.
“I’ll settle in here and do some voluntary work with another collection and continue my arts practice.
“I might make some new political work,” she adds, with a laugh.
Visit Louise’s website to see her most recent work, The Book of Sorrows.