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Research Process Journal

Background to Curating Art Cities

My research interest in cities, art and artists first began when I was the manager of exhibitions at Customs House, Sydney in the early 2000s. Being part of a team managing a public heritage building managed by the City of Sydney, gave me an opportunity to reflect on, analyse and create projects which represented the diversity of past and present stories of the development of the city. As I worked closely with the artists and creative communities of Sydney, I came to realise what amazing insights and perspectives were to be offered by this community and how enriching it was to research and develop projects with the art community. Understanding this history, gave depth of meaning in reading Sydney. It also gave me a much greater sense of connection to the city I grew up in. 


I also became aware, that the urban policy, planning and activities of the city all had a major impact on the cultures of the city, which shaped and influenced the voice of artists. It was at this time I became interested in the field of urban studies and a realisation that artists have a role to play in shaping our perceptions of place. It was the I first time I had heard Sharon Zukin speak about her work on The Culture of Cities (1995) and heard of Jan Gehl's Life Between Building studies, on the movement of people in cities. During this time, I was witnessing the impact of the ongoing gentrification of post olympics Sydney, with the increased corporatisation of the city. This was having a major impact on the arts in the city, in particular on the production of the arts and the role of individual artists. Many individual artists found it increasingly difficult to continue their practice. There were community forums held, usually by the arts and urban institutions, but the power of the individual artists groups was becoming diminished. At the time, what I saw as an issue, was the lack of planning to create an inclusive environment where the individual still had access to producing, distributing and contributing to the creative life of their city. There was a lack of support for the ecosystem of creative activities, which often does not go hand in hand with a corporatising environment. 


This led me to a path to continue to study the role of the artists in globalising cities, how as our society de-colonises and becomes more diverse, the creative voice of artists is needed to support us in re-engaging with our transforming and increasingly super-diverse city environments.