Arts Management alumni Claudia and Carla curated a group exhibition at First Site Gallery in 2019. We caught up with them to chat about collaboration, securing funding and making the most of opportunities whilst a student at RMIT.
Hi Claudia and Carla, how did your collaborative practice begin?
We met in 2018 during our first semester of the Master of Arts Management course at RMIT. We had both moved to Melbourne that year, Carla from Mexico and Claudia from Perth. We met through an internship with CAST at RMIT and presented an exhibition Intercambio: Cuba Australia video exchange at BLINDSIDE Gallery with curator Damien Smith. The internship was the starting point of us working together and becoming friends.
Our decision to collaborate on an exhibition at First Site Gallery followed on from a documentary film showcase that we produced together at Testing Grounds during our second semester. Carla had experience working with a film festival called DOQUMENTA back in Mexico and we decided to work together again to bring part of the festival program to Melbourne.
What was your exhibition at First Site Gallery about?
The exhibition was called Aquí y Allá, a Spanish title which translates to Here and There. It brought together the best of the student category of DOQUMENTA’s 2018 program with a selection of documentary shorts by RMIT students. We curated the exhibition as an exchange that gave voice to unique lived experiences in Mexico and Australia, celebrating both the commonalties and cultural differences between each place.
What was a highlight from your First Site Gallery exhibition experience?
Developing the exhibition in a university setting was a highlight as it gave us confidence to network with a variety of faculty members to overcome issues. For example, having direct contact with the film faculty to find the RMIT films, and reaching out to RMIT Gallery for help with some of the equipment not available through AV Loans. For any project, networking is a key factor to making your visions come to life; especially when working with a low budget you need to be able to take advantage of the resources and people around you.
What are some of the pros and cons to working collaboratively?
One of the biggest advantages we have found through collaboration is that we give each other confidence to make our ideas a reality. Knowing someone is by your side to tackle all the hurdles and lengthy application processes is very motivating for us.
We have also found success as a team because we balance each other in our skills. Our partnership has also allowed us to develop cross cultural projects and connect with a variety of people in both Spanish and English.
In terms of pitfalls, as good friends we can sometimes feel less accountable to do work and meet our own deadlines! Also, Carla is now back in Mexico, and with the circumstances of COVID-19 it is now a whole other challenge organising times to chat and planning for future projects when we don’t know how long travel bans and health risks will be in place.
Overall, the benefits absolutely outweigh any pitfalls. We highly recommend anyone studying in the creative scene to develop relationships within their cohort and to look for people with similar ambitions as you never know what opportunities may develop from them.
How have your careers developed since graduating from RMIT?
Our biggest achievement since graduating has been the fruition of an exhibition called Tertulia; a moving image exhibition that was developed as a transnational discussion of global issues between artists and writers living in Mexico and Australia. Last year, amidst our studies, we were successful in securing funding for this project through the City of Melbourne Arts Grants program as well as exhibition space at BLINDSIDE Gallery. We now have hopes of programming the exhibition in Mexico in 2021 and are currently working on a new funding application to do so.
You have been the recipients of funding to support several of your projects. Do you have any tips regarding sourcing funding as emerging creatives?
Our main tip would be that prior planning to your application is essential. If you can prove that your project is both feasible and offering something new that aligns with funding priorities, you will have a good chance of receiving a grant. Make sure you have prior contact with all the people you plan to include in your project, have budgeted the general costs and artist fees and can show exactly where the money you are asking for will be going.
We have also found that working with artist run initiatives has been extremely supportive for us as emerging arts workers. We have worked with BLINDSIDE and Testing Grounds and the staff were amazing at helping us in the application process and securing funding.
Lastly, we would say just go for it! If you have an idea that inspires you and you believe would inspire and educate others, then don’t let limited experience hold you back. If you are unsuccessful, learn from the experience and try again!
Where do you see yourselves in five years from now?
We both hope to be able to balance our independent curatorial endeavours with a more secure job in the arts sector. Alongside curating, Carla is interested in digital exhibitions development and design, and Claudia is interested in planning education and public programs around exhibitions, communication and writing.
We plan to keep collaborating and have talked about establishing ourselves more formally as a collective. There is a possibility we may develop a business plan focusing on our curatorial practices and arts consultancy between Mexico and Australia.
Acknowledgement of Country
RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.
Acknowledgement of Country
RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.