Art for Social Change

Art for Social Change is a three-part series of participatory artworks exploring social justice issues that impact the student experience on campus.

What is Art for Social Change?

Art for Social Change is a three-part series of participatory artworks created and displayed on RMIT campuses. Each artwork is conceived by an artist who is either a current RMIT student or alumni with a lived experience of a particular social justice issue.  The artworks themselves explore themes of respect and belonging at RMIT.

Each project is participatory – which means students co-create elements of the artwork through workshops and events. This collaborative process creates an opportunity for informal conversations and learning about important social issues. 

Art for Social Change is a partnership between RUSU (RMIT University Student Union) and RMIT Student Life.

The artworks

We Belong: Beyond Accessibility

Amplifying Deaf and Disabled perspectives at RMIT. This participatory arts project is a collaboration between RUSU and RMIT Student Life.

About the project

This new project is the third in a series of three collaborations between RUSU and Student Life which creatively explore student identified social issues on campus, through a lens of belonging and allyship.

In this third iteration, an emerging artist who is connected to RMIT, either as student or alumni and who identifies as Deaf or Disabled, or living with disability* will create a participatory artwork to be co-created with students. The project will highlight stories and ideas that relate to students and their experiences of identity, visibility, allyship and belonging at RMIT University.  This project asks the RMIT community to consider: What’s beyond accessibility and inclusion?

The project is designed with a foundation in the newly launched RMIT Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) Framework. It recognises that sharing of stories and experiences can contribute to people from all backgrounds to feel safe on campus.

*We acknowledge people may prefer person-first or identity-first language and support individuals right to use language that best reflects their identity.

Student wearing a mask at an event. Student wearing a mask at an event.

Project timeline

This project will happen in two stages.

  • Stage 1 – Mentorship (2023): Three emerging RMIT alumni or postgraduate artists, who identify as Deaf or Disabled, or living with disability, will receive mentorship by Larissa MacFarlane (see profile below) to develop a proposal for  a participatory arts project. One project will be selected for presentation at RMIT.
  • Stage 2 – Artwork co-creation with students (2024): The selected proposal will be further developed and presented via a series of creative workshops across RMIT City, Brunswick and Bundoora campuses and online (if applicable) throughout Semester 1 2024.

Artist mentor

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Larissa MacFarlane – Artist mentor (they/them or she/her)

Larissa is a Scottish-Australian queer feminist, visual artist and disability activist based in Naarm/Melbourne. They work across printmaking, street art and community art practice and use their experiences of a brain injury to investigate Disabled culture, community, identity and pride. Larissa has exhibited work across Australia and internationally. For more information, check out Larissa's bio.

“I wanted to be the mentor on this project because it just sounds exciting. Disability culture is still so unexplored and diverse, and I’m looking forward to coming together and seeing how other Disabled artists explore our unique culture and identity. Disabled artists are often isolated from each other and this mentorship is about bringing us together, sharing knowledge, and building culture and community. Sharing the wisdom and the years of experience of being disabled. It’s about identifying, standing up, being proud of who you are, valuing that and leading by example.”

Artists receiving mentorship

Liwen Lian We Belong Artist Project
Liwen Lian (they/them)  – Artist mentee 

Liwen is a designer, writer and artist. They are non-binary and neurodivergent, with a Hui-Chinese background. Their Feral Design Practice operates within an intersectional framework, encompassing ecological, queer, feminist, disability, non-human… perspectives. They actively search for marginalized stories and perspectives from places and situations. Employing a range of ethnographic techniques, the practice aims to challenge dominant spatial narratives and foster diverse forms of learning and communication through de-sign. Their techniques include [being] with, reading, writing, walking, performing, archiving, and assembling.

Each project incorporates a unique combination of these techniques, resulting in installations, site interventions, and assemblages. Emphasizing collaboration and collectivity, Liwen's practice embraces uncertainty, emotions, and alternative ways of acquiring knowledge. Throughout their studies in interior design, they have developed a diverse portfolio of work, including installation art, exhibition design, curation, and object making.

Rachel Shugg We Belong Artist Project
Rachel Shugg (she/her) – Artist mentee 

Rachel Shugg is an Australian research and interdisciplinary fashion designer. Examining the relationship between art and fashion, her work stems from a desire to disrupt and change the current way the fashion industry operates, particularly its current approach to designing for disability and inclusivity. Based on the belief that fashion is not only a form of artistic expression but can be a platform for social change, her practice incorporates a passion for disability advocacy, fashion and sustainability that examines the relationship between the self, the body and the social world to further innovative accessible design and cross-disciplinary practice. Rachel believes strongly that fashion can and must exist in harmony with the environment and the current climate.

Penny Pollard - We Belong Artist Project
Penny Pollard (she/her) – Artist mentee 

Penny’s award-winning work has been shown nationally and internationally. Her art is poetically articulate and highly distinctive. Penny’s art explores complex ideas of layered personal identity and the public/interpersonal perceptions and assumptions of individual character; the initially seen surfaces and the underlying unseen strengths and fragilities. Her works address questions of subjectivity, appearance, and labels. Although predominantly working in metal, Penny is multidisciplinary, with a practice spanning jewellry, poetry and visual arts. In her most recent work, Penny considers her deafness.

Living with deafness, she has a deep understanding of the many social, political barriers and structural adjustments required in order to respectfully meet diverse goals, ensure full and equal participation, and bring a positive disability perspective to professional arts practice. Penny seeks to continually realise the changing needs and cultural aspirations of Deaf and Disabled artists and recognise the importance of Deaf and Disabled people being at the heart of culture as makers and viewers. Beginning her studies at NMIT in Collingwood in 2002, received 2008 BA Fine Art (1st Class Honours), RMIT University, Penny went on to complete a Master of Fine Arts at Monash University in 2013. She now lives and works in Melbourne.

Project co-champions

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Timothy Winning – RUSU Disability and Carers Officer (they/them)

As Disability and Carers Officer, Timothy is strongly focused on disabled student belonging; advocating for changes to the University landscape that will allow disabled students to access and receive the appropriate support they require. 

"I hope that this project, this celebration of disability, shows students that they deserve to be confident with themselves, to be proud of their disability, that they belong at RMIT."

Untitled design - 1
Mark Morante – RUSU General Manager (he/him)

Mark held the inaugural position of RUSU Disability and Carers Officer in 2022. During his time in office, he worked with the University on a number of initiatives designed to support disabled students, including the highly successful 'Shut Up and Write' study sessions for neurodiverse students. 

"I’m a champion of this project because I wish to see the diversity and experiences of disabled students represented at RMIT. I believe that this project will demonstrate that RMIT is a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space for disabled students."

The Journey of Mapiyal by Indianna Hunt

This participatory artwork by Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Jardwadjali, Wergaia artist and RMIT alumni Indianna Hunt is made of two elements linking RMIT Melbourne campuses:

  • The Burrow, an immersive multimedia installation, at City campus
  • Mapiyal, a four and a half metre long platypus sculpture made of cane and fabric, at Bundoora West Campus Lake

Each element was co-created with students and staff over two years, both online and in person. These moments of creative collaboration offered an opportunity for students and staff to have meaningful conversationsand reflect on their journey towards solidarity and inclusion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Journey of Mapiyal was named as a finalist in the 2022 Victorian Premiers Design Awards and was championed by 2020-2021 RUSU Indigenous Officer Kimberly Lovegrove.

Colourful Mapiyal sculpture with greenery behind. Colourful Mapiyal sculpture with greenery behind.
A hand hangs a message written on a ribbon onto a bunting. A hand hangs a message written on a ribbon onto a bunting.
Two hands construct the frame of the Mapiyal sculpture. Two hands construct the frame of the Mapiyal sculpture.
Text And Media Video

The Journey of Mapiyal

This participatory project by alumni Indianna Hunt was co-created with students and staff at RMIT through meaningful conversation and creative activations. It explored belonging, respect and solidarity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and for people from all backgrounds on campus.

Picture of Indianna Hunt at RMIT Brunswick Campus Indianna Hunt at Brunswick campus. Photo Credit: Tope Adesina

About the artist

Indianna Hunt, is a proud Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Jardwadjali, Wergaia woman. She is an emerging visual artist who enjoys exploring different media and connecting people through art.

She grew up in Bordertown, SA on Bindjali country and moved to Naarm (Melbourne) in 2016 for study. 

Indianna studied a Diploma of Visual Arts at RMIT, graduating 2017.

Key collaborators

  • Indianna Hunt, Lead Artist and Burrow Design (Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Jardwadjali, Wergaia)
  • Elder Kerry Clarke, Story of Mapiyal (Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara, Jardwadjali, Wergaia)
  • Israel Carter, Sound Artist (Wemba Wemba, Ngarrindjeri)
  • John Power, VFX Animation Director
  • Mahony Kiely, Cane and bamboo artist and mentor
  • Darcy, Israel, Caley, Anjali, Calleen, Winyinar, Fiona, Jesse, Shylicia and Elijah, Flag hearts
  • The Burrow Transcript (PDF, 30KB)

The Burrow Transcript

Blooming Now by Jo Mott

Blooming Now is a community art project lead by artist and RMIT alumni Jo Mott. The artwork -– comprised of more than 800 colourful 'hands' all created at banner-making workshops – symbolises respect for women, female identifying and non-binary people across all RMIT campuses.

The artwork proudly hung above the RUSU offices on the City campus until end 2022, before it moved to Brunswick Campus in 2023.

The project created a message of strength with participants, extending RMIT’s ‘Respect. Now. Always.’ campaign, along with RMITs Three Year Plan to Prevent Gender Based Sexual Harm. Championed by 2019 RUSU President Ella Gvildys.

Colourful hands form the shape of a woman on a black background. Colourful hands form the shape of a woman on a black background.
Artwork hangs in a building on Brunswick campus. Artwork hangs in a building on Brunswick campus.
Artist Jo Mott shapes the hands into a large design. Artist Jo Mott shapes the hands into a large design.
Picture of Joanne Mott Picture of Joanne Mott

About the artist

Joanne Mott is an Australian artist who works across a broad range of artforms including collage, sculpture, installation, new media and site responsive public art. Her works engage the themes of ecologies, environment, sustainability and placemaking, and her practice includes creating social and community art projects. Joanne has served a member of the C3 Artspace board, the Visual Arts Grants Selection panel for Creative Victoria and the Brimbank Public Art Advisory Committee, the selection panel for Be Bold Artist Residencies. She is currently a committee member for The Gisborne Botanic Gardens.

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aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

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.