"We will do some remarkable things" ~ theatre notes

Friday, February 08, 2008

"We will do some remarkable things"

In a move that confirms its ambition and vision, the Victorian College of the Arts has appointed Melbourne Festival artistic director Kristy Edmunds in the newly created position of Head of VCA Performing Arts. She will take up the position in November this year, after she has finished her work on the 2008 festival.

The appointment was announced yesterday by VCA Dean, Professor Andrea Hull, and a phalanx of VCA honchos, including Head of Production Richard Roberts, Acting Head of Drama Richard Murphet and Head of Dance Jenny Kinder. And everyone looked as pleased as punch. I've seldom been at such a feelgood press conference.

Edmunds’ brief will be to oversee the performing arts disciplines Dance, Drama and Production (which includes puppetry), and to support the creative visions of VCA staff and students. She will help to foster collaboration between disciplines and, in particular, to promote the national and international reputation of the school as a leading centre of artistic excellence by forging relationships between students and staff and the larger artistic community.

“This is a new brief,” said Professor Hull. “We wanted someone inspirational, someone who understands where the students and staff are coming from, someone who understands what drives artists.

“Kristy is an artist in her own right, she has the academic background – and that’s our language - and as an experienced festival director, she brings solid executive experience. We are delighted that she’s agreed to take up this position.”

Edmunds said the position was an exciting prospect. “This is a place of impassioned endeavour,” she said. “It’s a place where people do things, they don’t just think about doing things. I have so many ideas.

“There’s no doubt that internationally the arts are under pressure. There’s a kind of urgency about it. And in a digital age, a mediated age, the intimacy of performance has unlimited potential. It will be a privilege to help a new generation of artists find their uniqueness and integrity.

“We will do some remarkable things.”

Edmunds brings some invaluable assets to the VCA – the networks, both local and international, that she has built up in her four years as artistic director of MIAF, and the respect and trust of Melbourne’s artistic community. She has already fostered some exciting schemes for young Australian artists – Merce Cunningham’s residency at MIAF last year, for example, led to his instituting a scholarship for young Australian dancers to study at his company.

She says her first job is “to listen and to learn”, to find out what the energies and desires are within the institution, and then work out how best to manifest them. As Richard Murphet said, “she is someone who can communicate in ways that students won’t feel alienated by, or imposed upon.”

And the ambition is quite clear – to put the VCA firmly on the map as one of the leading performing arts schools in the world.

Murphet said the appointment was an expression of the VCA’s commitment to growth and change, and especially to being a leading engine of artistic innovation. “If we don’t change, we die,” he said.

Hull said the appointment – the first significant appointment the VCA has made since it became a faculty of the University of Melbourne at the beginning of last year – had been “enthusiastically supported” by their academic colleagues at Melbourne University. It certainly appears to confirm the autonomy of the VCA within the larger institution.

Well, so much for the official report. As far as TN is concerned, this is excellent news. More than just good news for the future of the VCA, it’s good news for Melbourne. It means that when Kristy Edmunds leaves the Melbourne Festival, this city won’t lose the resources and energies, both national and international, that she has created here during her artistic directorship of MIAF.

Instead, they'll develop into long-term influences in our performing arts culture, within an institution that is the driving force for some of the most exciting artistic energies in this city. Look out.


Anonymous said...

From my time at VCA and after, I have such admiration and fondness for Andrea Hull. She's had an intolerably difficult job to do, at times with no easy or praiseworthy choices and besieged on all sides, such as with up-front fees when I was there and I imagine with the amalgamation with Melbourne Uni also. And yet her vision and passion for the College and the students was so apparent and heartfelt. I'm very happy for her and the College at this news, it is such an unequivocal validation of her years of work that is responsible for so much of the arts in Melbourne.

Anonymous said...

Sensational news. To the current and arriving students, get ready - you're in for a hell of a ride.

I'm sure Murph was over the moon to be there at an announcement of that magnitude.

Congratulations to Edmunds and the VCA!