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VCA to celebrate 40th birthday

20 Mar 2012

VCA to celebrate 40th birthday Image

The Victorian College of the Arts is about to celebrate a milestone, with a street party to be held for its 40th anniversary on March 23.

The landmark is significant for all at the college but maybe even more so for current head of art, Jan Murray, who has been in and around the college since 1980.

Ms Murray started as a student in 1980, before returning to teach in 1983. She says despite the physical grounds having changed quite considerably over that time, the ethos of the school remains the same.

“The qualities we value, we have nurtured them and they have followed right through. We have been able to maintain those elements all the way through, despite having grown,” Ms Murray said.

The physical changes have been varied, most notably, Jan says, have been the studio movements and growth.

“When I was a student here, our studios were behind the horse stables and they have definitely become more established since then,” she said.

“The arts school (where she works) used to be behind the art gallery. We’ve expanded and geographically moved,” Ms Murray added.

“While it’s grown, Lenton Parr’s initial idea for the college has flourished and I think it continues to flourish,” Ms Murray exclaimed proudly. Lenton Parr was the founding dean of the VCA and after whom its library is now named.

Ms Murray said the treatment of its students is what sets the VCA apart, saying: “The thing that identifies us are the issues of one-to-one and the studio model – everyone gets a studio and they’re treated like an artist.”

In the art faculty particularly, students having their own studio is a seen as a fantastic pathway into the reality of the real world.

“We offer everyone a studio space. It gives them the understanding and knowledge to have their own practice. In a way it’s an embodied experience to work in a studio,” Ms Murray said.

She believes this is one of the main reasons her students are showing more initiative than ever before.

“Students come to us and they’re already showing. In the old days you used to wait until you were tapped on the shoulder. It’s not like that anymore,” she said.

There have been other teaching changes according to Ms Murray over the course of the last 40 years.

“I think it’s less casual. The student staff ratios were more generous. I think the staff were more casual, but I think that its just mirroring the way the world’s turned,” she said.

This may also have to do with the growth in numbers over the years, but Ms Murray said no matter how many students the school had, a special sense of belonging remained.

“The intimacy has always been there. The family of VCA always keeps a sense of community. When you become part of that it is a special thing,” she said.

The VCA will be hoping that sense of community brings out plenty of people for the 40th anniversary street party. It is hoping to attract both alumni and general public, and the party kicks off from 4pm at Dodds St.

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