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Research Process Journal


Doncaster, In partnership with the City of Manningham, 2019+

Birralee Primary School, The Chinese Museum and Chinese Social Services

Funded by Creative Victoria - Creative Suburbs


Building on my social engagement work, this new project will be developed through a 'social artist in residence' model. As an resident artist, I will work over a 10 week period with 12 local families to develop an art project, which will be exhibited at the Manningham Gallery at MC2 as one of the outputs of the project. The project will focus on new immigrant families in the Doncaster area and seek to recognise and strengthen their relationships with other families in the community through engagement in an art project. In recent years, the Doncaster area has experienced rapid population growth as a result of Melbourne's overall growth. New urban developments in the local area have also attracted many families to the area. This project seeks to focus on the relationship between place and the people who inhabit that place, looking at ways they can connect to their local environment and develop an increased sense of belonging. 

Social Artists in Residence - Project Team

Our project is to be developed by a creative team which includes myself as the lead 'social artist in residence', Jessica Simmons, the Arts and Cultural Officer of Manningham Council, Yuso Lee and Amy Kennedy, Manningham's Ceramic Artists and Teachers, Davie Warnock, the curator and Hollie Barclay, the Assistant Curator of the MC2 Gallery and Art Studios. The journey of the families will be documented by artist Sofi Basseghi, who has been invited to work with me as the videographer and was supported by Katayoun Javan and Ai Yamamoto. Rong Ping Jiang will be working with our families as a translator of Mandarin. 

Planning and Preparation

Over the last year we have actively planned and recruiting our families appropriate for this project with consultation from our partner Birralee Primary School. The project is developed with the City of Manningham and funded by Creative Victoria's Creative Suburbs program. After working on the grant application in mid 2018, we found out we were successful in being granted our Creative Suburbs grant in September 2018. I recall receiving the good news when I was travelling Barcelona, whilst waiting for the Sagrada Familia to open, which left me in a good mood to enjoy the beautiful and awe inspiring architecture. 

Progress to Date

1. Developed an overall plan for the project, considering time, budget and resources

2. Recruited our team of creative practitioners to planned our activities

3. Recruited our Industry partners which include Birralee Primary School, Chinese Social Services, The Manningham Library, The Chinese Museum

4. Applied for funding from Creative Victoria through their Creative Suburbs program and successfully received the grant

4. Consulted with and selected our participants from Birralee Primary School community - We have selected 24 participants from 12 families, each family consisting of a child (upper Primary School aged 9-12 years) and a nominated parent.

5. Internally launched the project with partners

6. Researched the Doncaster/Manningham region to gain a better understanding of how this community fits within the broader region and to understand the position of new immigrant families - here Edward Soja's 'Thirdspaces' was considered in analysing the region.

7. Researched the work and strategies of contemporary visual artists working are a social engaged manner and also artists dealing with issues of globalisation, migration and mobility. 

8. Researched Materials and Technologies - Considered the meaning of the material of ceramics in relation to Manningham's ceramics history, Chinese/Asian artistic cultural history and ceramics as an ancient and global recognised art form. Considered the ways in which digital media can complement and work together with ceramics as the main medium for exhibition, considering the spatial concerns of the gallery and the production of the project. 

The Participants

The children have all identified as new immigrants and the majority have Chinese heritage (and Chinese diaspora heritage - including Malaysia, Vietnam & Hong Kong), although there are also two families who identify as Korean-Australians and also Columbian-Australians. In this instance we will reflect on developing an expression, that speaks about an universal experience, which our participants are able to contribute to individually, but also to form a larger collaborative effort of the group. 

Image: Yuso Lee, Tammy Wong Hulbert, Alfred Feng, Nancy Feng, Andrea Lu, Han Lu, Milano Chi, Cecilia Chi, Yehong Zhang, Eason Zhang, Lily Huang, Matthew Huang, Karen Cadavid, Camila Cadavid, Kavitha Lim, Neena Lim, Brian Li, Candy Li, Dora Ke, Lyn Ke, Rita Chen, Charlene Chen, Jeong Min Moon, Alice Moon, Jessica Simmons, Amy Kennedy and Rongping Jiang. Sofi Basseghi, Chelsea Cooper, Davy Warnock and Hollie Barclay were also part of the team, but not present for the photo. Photo by Katayoun Javan. 

Ethics Approval 

Ethics approval was also sought through RMIT University and the Victorian Department of Education. Even though the nominated participants were taking part in this project outside of school hours at another facility, RMIT did require us to obtain ethics approval from the department of education, because the participants were selected through the school community. Ethics approval required a 'Letter of Support' for the project from Birralee's Principle and also evidence to support this project, which was situated in public and socially engaged contemporary art and curatorial practice and theory literature. Through this ethics process a 'Letter of Consent' was developed for the project to be used as a guideline for the families, to be introduced and signed in Week 1 of our sessions. Ethics approval was received from both organisations, allowing us to work with the selected families in a public project with public outcomes. From the process of going through ethics approval, I gained experience in being precise with my methodology and methods and how this translates into the actions of interacting with targeted participants and being more considerate of the impact and implications of developing projects which have a public outcome. The process was slow (mostly because of the need for two approvals), but RMIT now has a system where suggestions and feedback are given to applicants before submission to the panel, which allows applicants to improve their applications before final submission, to address any potential issues before going to the review panel. This certainly makes the process smoother. 

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