AAANZ Letter | Save Art History at La Trobe

The Art Association of Australia and New Zealand have also allowed their letter concerning the slashing of art history at La Trobe to be published.

The Art Association of Australia and New Zealand expresses great concern at the possible closure of art history at La Trobe University. This is particularly to be deplored because the program has healthy numbers with strong retention rates, is cost-effective in its current placement within the School of Historical and Cultural Studies and is being taught by staff with exceptionally high research outputs.

Since the 1970s La Trobe’s scholarly art historians have made a significant contribution to the intellectual life of this country and overseas. Students have benefited from outstanding teaching to establish professional careers in universities, art galleries and the media in Australia, Europe and the USA. These are graduates of whom Australia can be proud.

It is the view of the AAANZ that art history is a not a specialist subject which belongs to the few, but is a foundational subject that should be taught throughout the humanities.  We live in a visual world, a world mediated by images, and art history provides a means of understanding those images. Art history equips students with techniques for analysing and interpreting both historical and contemporary images and the theoretical approaches that inform them.

This visual literacy is increasingly important for all disciplines in universities, not simply the humanities, and there are fruitful interdisciplinary collaborations between art history, the sciences, education, architecture and other disciplines in other universities.

La Trobe University has an important art museum with rich collections, and art history is fundamental to their interpretation. Other universities have understood the importance of the nexus between the study of art history and their art museums. Within our region these include the University of Melbourne (which has recently appointed a position to liaise between art history and the art museum), Monash University, University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, University of Adelaide, Australian National University, University of Canterbury, University of Auckland, Victoria University Wellington, University of Otago, University of Queensland, Griffith University, QUT and the University of Western Australia.

These institutions understand the importance of the study of art history as part of their cultural capital and include it in their strategic plan for the future.

To eliminate art history would be a short-sighted action that would deprive students of visual and interpretive skills that they increasingly need in our media-centred world.


Ann Stephen on behalf of the AAANZ Executive

President of the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand

Remember to sign the petition protesting the cuts here.

You can also write to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Dewar, expressing your concern at the withdrawal of Art History, as a matter or urgency. Copy your email to Executive Dean Prof. Tim Murray and Head of School, Prof. Chris Mackie

Disclaimer: Lisa Beaven is one of the directors of the Melbourne Art Network and also a lecturer in the Art History department at La Trobe. Her partner David Marshall is also a director of the Melbourne Art Network.

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