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When Art becomes activism

by Gerrit Bester

Art as a powerful currency to address societal challenges will be the focus of the Faculty of Arts and Design for the next five years. Prof Nalini Moodley, who will serve a second term as Executive Dean, outlined this vision for the Faculty during a staff engagement.

Artivism is a portmanteau of art and activism and is based on creativity cultivating responsible citizenship and social awareness particularly at a time when we are faced with innumerable challenges,” she said.

Prof Moodley recognised that art is indeed the consciousness of society and encouraged her constituency to think deeply about how their creative expressions can be put into activism and become even more impactful.

In a presentation, titled Looking Back, Looking Forward, Prof Moodley said that while the Faculty might be the smallest of TUT’s seven faculties it certainly packs a punch! She highlighted several successes her team has achieved while not overlooking the challenges.

This year, the Faculty received no fewer than 17 000 applications, all first choices. Unfortunately, only 507 of these applicants could be selected.

A recent survey indicated that 44% of the Faculty’s graduates find employment within one to five months of graduation, albeit in a field as difficult as the Arts.

Looking back, Prof Moodley cited several highlights achieved during the last five years in its quest to move from good to great, all of which speak to the University’s strategic pillars.

These include infrastructural improvements on campus, ranging from a perimeter wall and upgraded entrance, to the building of a fully functional Health and Wellness Centre.

Others include the conferment of eight honorary doctorates, renaming two buildings, establishing a Gender-based-Violence Desk on campus (a first), research showcases, launching a TUT Art collection, the opening of a Creative Box, digital advances such as the launch of a Tech Lab, and hosting four successful Arts festivals with the aim of producing graduates that are ready to enter this immensely competitive industry.

The latter was one of Prof Moodley’s dreams when she took office five years ago and has proved to be an invaluable marketing opportunity for prospective students, parents, industry, stakeholders, donors, principals, and so on.

Prof Moodley announced that plans are underway to grow the festival into a national university arts festival in partnership with the Technological Higher Education Network South Africa (THENSA).

"But we still have a long way to go, and there are lots of dreams still to be realised and unlimited growth potential," she added.

While achievements are always celebrated, the Faculty does have many challenges that still keep it grounded. These include improving the student success rate and postgraduate graduation rates, particularly at master’s and doctoral level.

On a positive note, the Faculty’s research output has almost tripled from 2018 to 2022.

In terms of research and innovation, the Faculty is in the process of creating a Research Hub for staff and students. The former will provide mentoring, editing, peer review support, journal and conference identification, and support for creative output submissions; with the latter providing research methods, monitoring, and mentoring, among others.

Other developments include boosting the Centre for Creative Industries, establishing an online art gallery, hosting a staff exhibition and Vice-Chancellor’s concert, and optimising the Breytenbach Theatre as a resource for third-stream income.

Prof Moodley added that more should also be done to cash in on the intellectual capacity of the honorary doctors and expose these giants to students.

In conclusion, she thanked her staff for their role in taking the Faculty forward: "We are fortunate to have passionate staff who are expert professionals and a talented student pool."

LOOKING FORWARD! Prof Nalini Moodley, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design, is intent on taking the Faculty from good to great during the next five years.


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