The Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) is set to expand its horizons – literally and figuratively – with its visual arts wing due to be completed this year. The space will be accessible to students as well as the public. This will provide more opportunities for the VCA’s visual art students to showcase their work, in addition to regular exhibitions.
And where will these horizons expand to, you ask? The visual arts wing is a renovation project, replacing the Victorian Police Mounted Branch stables behind the
VCA campus. Professor Barry Conynham, Dean of the Faculty for the VCA and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, said that the concept of renovating the stables has been on the drawing board for several decades, as UMSU reported in 2015.
The project has been put in action, with $8.5 million funding from the Victorian Government. It intends to draw in members of the public to engage with not only the visual art, but also the physical performance aspects of VCA, such as dance and music.
VCA student Nicole Ng says she is looking forward to further engagement with the community and future students, as well as more space.
“It would definitely bring more attention to Fine Art courses for Melbourne University. It would bring more open space for Fine Arts students to work with,” she says.
However, when contacted, the VCA Students Association did highlight a concern about the renovations – a lot of money is going into them, which means it is not going into staffing at the Southbank campus.
“We just saw the biggest job cuts in Australian university history with the Business Improvement Plan and this is already having a negative effect on students’ experience,” says James Crafti, VCASA’s Campaigns Coordinator.
“The fact that the university is spending money on renovations when they should be spending it on hiring and maintaining staff shows their moves are more about prestige than… education.”
The Business Improvement Plan (BIP) has certainly had a ripple effect. At face value, fewer staff suggests a less enriching education experience for students at all campuses of the University of Melbourne. It’s important to note that the BIP is a relatively recent occurrence due to federal government funding cuts, stable renovation idea has been around for over thirty years. Perhaps staffing needs should be addressed along with renovations, in light of the BIP.