Vice President's Welcome: Celebrating our Alumni

By Professor Clive Barstow

Welcome to the 9th edition of NiTRO in which we celebrate our alumni. Through our creative courses, Australia produces graduates who not only continue their careers as artists, designers and performers, but graduates who, through their abilities to think creatively and contextually, contribute to the cultural fabric of our society in so many different ways. It is well known that artists and designers embody the very skills that will be essential in our ever increasing move toward an automated workforce, skills such as creativity, adaptability, agility and perhaps more than any other, the often undervalued skill of how to think illogically.

In the 2011 ABS census, 43% of creative employment was attributed to non-creative industries, the largest single sector being the software development industry. A colleague of mine in Silicon Valley tells me that currently over 55% of employees have arts degrees with no coding or software design training. Artists are playing a central role in communicating our future technologies and pushing the boundaries of how these technologies connect to our human condition. Arts students have helped revolutionise company websites, apps and intranets while 3D artists and animators are employed to simulate training environments in the mining and defence industries. Yet the arts it seems are highly undervalued in Australia, the crucial connections that artists make in so many fields of employment are not as clearly understood by those who privilege STEM learning in our Universities, our training institutions and in the allocation of research funding.

With the recent discussions surrounding life after robotics and the impacts of artificial intelligence on our lives, the arts are going to play an even more vital role to ensure that the impending liberation of time will be a time enriched by the arts and humanities. To make the connections between what we know now about our graduates and what needs to be acknowledged for the future, a national database of arts alumni might contribute in some part to proving our worth at a time when the politics of division between the arts and the sciences is so out of kilter. The innovation nation will not work if this is an exclusive vision based solely on the advancement of technology.  A nation that references artistic practices as a lifestyle choice is a third world nation in the waiting. Perhaps this is the time to celebrate our creative alumni more than ever, and to track their multiple careers along a road that will involve many twists and turns.

It is wonderful to see that NiTRO is attracting an increasing number of international contributions in this edition, an important part of sharing and cross-referencing our achievements with our partners and alumni overseas.  I hope you enjoy the commentaries in this important edition of NiTRO.