About First Site Gallery
Meet the team
Hear from First Site Committee Chair Monica Do about the role of the gallery during lockdown, the challenges of leading a team and the podcast that she is working on.
What is First Site Gallery?
First Site Gallery is RMIT’s student gallery. It is led by a committee of students from diverse study areas, such as nursing, games design and fine arts. Any RMIT student can apply to have an exhibition at the gallery, and the committee decides on successful applicants prioritising exhibitions exploring accessibility, diversity and community. The committee also organises events for fellow students, from workshops to panel discussions. As a student-led gallery, First Site provides opportunities for students to learn by doing, outside of the classroom context. It also contributes to the wellbeing and cultural life of students.
Why did you want to join the First Site Committee?
I am studying the Master of Arts Management and wanted to get involved in a university art gallery to gain experience. I was interested in First Site Gallery because of its emphasis on fostering student contribution and growth. As a committee member, I get the opportunity to understand how a gallery space operates. I also gain experience working in a structured team of students.
What have been one of the highlights at First Site this year?
The first round of exhibitions this semester, going through the process of selecting successful applications and seeing everything come into fruition was really exciting to see. Opening nights are always fun and it was great to see the artists have their work on show.
What do you see the gallery’s role to be during lockdown?
The committee sees First Site as an integral part of the wellbeing and culture of the RMIT ecosystem. For many, isolation can mean a disconnect from social life and creative practice. At First Site, we are committed to providing a platform for students to showcase their creative practice. We are currently working on some exciting online projects that will enable students to stay connected and feel part of the RMIT community.
As the First Site committee chair, you are in a leadership position early in your career. What have been some of the challenges and key learnings so far?
I see my position as chair of the committee as more of a mediator of voices. One of the key challenges I have encountered thus far is ensuring that everyone feels heard and that their efforts are recognised in a way that they feel valued. Our team consists of very distinct personalities and working styles, which can at times be a challenge to navigate. I think that one of the best things a leader can do is to recognise everyone’s efforts and enable their growth. In the role of chair, I have learnt to approach each situation with this foresight.
As an Asian Australian woman, you are passionate about increasing dialogue between Asian diaspora peoples. What do you see the role of gallery spaces is in achieving this?
Representation in all aspects of cultural life is pivotal in the way different identities are perceived in social life. I see galleries as an important facet of cultural and social life, making it an important platform for diversity, connecting people and building a more open society. More specifically, galleries can play a pivotal role in creating opportunities for Asian Australian diaspora people to share less commonly told narratives. Being a voice for Asian Australian people at First Site has been something I have taken great pride in.
Tell us about the podcast you are producing for First Site Gallery?
One of the programs that we have been working on is a podcast created to interrogate Asian Australian diasporic narratives, where the gallery becomes an avenue where people can see the diversity of stories that make up identity. Our proposed podcast will be an interview format, where topics such as migration, mental health, belonging and accessibility can be addressed as well as a celebration of creative practices in various fields. Follow our socials for more information!
The 2020 committee members:
- Monica Do (Chair)
- Amy Bartholomeusz (Administrator)
- Fiz Eustance (Treasurer)
- Julijana Ilievska (Coordinator)
- Ela Grunberg (Access and Inclusion)
- An-Sheng Li (Public Programs)
- Eloise Moya (Public Programs)
- Teame Ersie (Public Programs)
- Karima Sulaiman (Public Programs)
A short history
The antecedent of First Site Gallery can be traced back to the formation of a Gallery Collective in 1968 that was created soon after the establishment of RMIT Union (now RMIT Student Life). The first gallery, known as ‘The Collective Space’ ran exhibition programs from June to December each year as well as events, such as chess club nights, music performances and discussion groups.
The union’s gallery was relocated and renamed three times over the next fifteen years until, in 1996, it was moved to its current site and named First Site. From its inception, First Site was conceived as a space to provide students with a conduit into creative practice, independently from RMIT’s teaching programs.
As its founders imagined, First Site provided students with a space where they could experiment, take risks and learn about presenting their work publicly. In the past 23 years, First Site has presented over 850 exhibitions involving 4000 students that were appreciated by audiences of over 400,000.
First Site Gallery is led by a student committee, who rotate on a yearly basis. The committee programs exhibitions, organise public programs and set the vision and priorities for the gallery. They have their own budget and are supported by RMIT staff.
First Site Committee Chair Monica Do
Temporary physical closure
In line with recent Government advice, First Site is currently physically closed, instead presenting online engagement opportunities.
First Site Gallery
RMIT City campus, building 16
Storey Hall Basement
344 Swanston Street
Alice Mathieu, Exhibition Officer
Phone: 0417 697 179
First Site is accessible via a lift. The entrance is on Rodda Lane opposite Building 8. First Site has DDA compliant and gender neutral bathrooms.
First Site is committed to increasing accessibility to our exhibitions and events. If you have specific requirements please get in touch.