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Lucy Stranger (Fr 2012)

Lucy Stranger St Andrew's College Fresher 2012

Lucy (Fr 2012) is the Curator & Exhibition Coordinator at Orange Regional Gallery. Originally, from Canowindra in Central West NSW, she arrived at St Andrew’s College in 2012 and embraced college life, delving into various roles, from Fresher Rep to Buffet Committee Member. Lucy’s academic pursuits led her to a career in curating post-college, fuelled by a range of experiences including working at Artist Profile magazine both as an intern and then later as the Deputy Editor, a stint as curator at an international photography festival in China and a curatorial fellowship in Chicago. In this profile, Lucy offers a valuable perspective for anyone interested in pursuing a career in the Arts.

Please tell us a bit about yourself – where are you originally from, and how did you come to be a resident at St Andrew’s College?

I grew up on a farm outside of Canowindra in the central west of NSW. I went to boarding school in Sydney and decided I would study a bachelor of Arts at Sydney University. My sister was at Wesley College, and after hearing about her experience, I decided that College sounded like the right direction for me. After finishing a Gap year in the UK, I joined Drew’s. 

What parts of College life were you involved in? Do you have a favourite memory you would like to share?

I was a Fresher rep with Jim Wood, and it was an honour and a privilege to wake up fellow freshers for clean-up. I was involved in the prestigious Buffet committee in my second year – I loved keeping our fellow Androvians fuelled during exams. My favourite memories of College were the in-between, incidental moments of hanging out and living with my friends.

Did your time at St Andrew’s influence and or impact your life after College?

The friendships I made have continued to be a major part of my life both during and after College. Whilst I only knew a few people in the art industry from Drew’s, there were some key individuals from the network of alumni who assisted and inspired me to find my way in the art world.  

After completing a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney, you went on to undertake your Masters in Curating and Cultural Leadership. Were there particular academic, professional, or other experiences that motivated you to pursue study and a career in the Arts? 

In second year, whilst studying English literature and art history, I wanted to try out arts writing and began an internship at Artist Profile magazine. Working in the art industry alongside study enabled me to draw the dots together on how to build a career in the arts. Whilst finishing Honours in Art History, I began to explore curating. For me, curating combines the same critical thinking in arts writing; it just expands onto the walls of the Gallery.

You headed overseas to Chicago and worked in two different roles there for a period of time. How important for your career was getting that international experience and what were the most valuable learnings from your time in Chicago?

I loved working in Chicago and across America. I worked in arts writing and art valuation and had a curatorial fellowship at ACRE, Chicago. During my time in America, I focused on working with arts organisations in rural areas across America, including a photography festival in North Carolina and an artist residency in Wisconsin. As a curator, I am interested in reimagining what it means to make and engage with art in regional areas outside the major art centres. In America, I was able to see different models of arts funding and worked with international artists and organisations in rural areas. I have been able to bring these learnings back to my work in Orange.  

You have gone on to be a Curator with a number of organisations including 3:33 Art Projects and at the Pingyao International Photography Festival in China. How did these different roles aid your professional development within your field?

Pingyao International Photography Festival held in Northern China, was an amazing experience. I presented ‘Eyes on Australia’ an exhibition I previously shown at ‘Eyes on Main Street’ in Wilson, North Carolina, and from there, I was invited to exhibit the show in China. It included 7 leading Australian photographers – Tamara Dean, Hoda Afshar, Prue Stent and Honey Long, Karla Dickens, Marcelle Bradbeer and Jasmine Poole. At both festivals, I was able to connect with curators, academics and photographers from around the world, and these are a part of my broader network today.

What interested me in working at 3:33 Art Projects is that it expanded past traditional models of showing and selling art. Rather than limited to a gallery space, 3:33 developed partnerships with major clients, including Bank of America and Clayton Utz, Sydney and Melbourne, to present major Australian artists including John Olsen, Ann Thomson and David Griggs, to their clients and staff, and as a result, broaden the artist’s audiences.

You’ve also worked as a Deputy Editor and Writer at the Artist Profile Magazine for over 6 years, could you tell us a bit about this experience? Was there a big difference when writing about art rather than curating it? What were your favourite parts of this role?

Artist Profile magazine significantly shaped the way I write and curate. For me, the two are intertwined. The magazine was founded by artists, and the primary focus was to discuss the artists’ process first as the ideas emerged from that. In a time when studying at university was heavily ideas weighted, the focus on material thinking and aesthetics in the magazine was a critical learning point for me. And it is foundational to how I approach art.

You are currently the Curator & Exhibition Coordinator at Orange Regional Gallery, could you tell us a bit about how you secured this role (we hear that they can be hard to get!) and the gallery itself?

As you have read, I have worked a range of jobs and completed two degrees to get to this point. When completing my Masters of Curating and Cultural Leadership, I began examining what working in the arts in a regional area would look like. After seeing the potential of the arts in regional areas in America and China, I knew I wanted to curate in a place that I grew up in and understood. Soon after returning from America, the role came up at Orange. I was so excited to tell them that I was from nearby Canowindra. However, I think the international experience was what got me over the line. The Gallery has recently reopened with a new extension, including four exhibition spaces and a theatre. We work with local artists alongside major Australian including Ildiko Kovacs, R Walker, Catherine O’Donnell and Kuba Dorabialski, and international artists William Kentridge and Laurence Edwards. We aim to show major destination exhibitions alongside local artists, which brings in new audiences for our local artists.

What does a typical day at work look like for you as the Curator and Exhibition Coordinator?

I work in a shiny industry where people think it is all champagne and looking at art – which sometimes it is. However, day-to-day can range from a studio visit with an artist, installing an exhibition, or meeting with partners of the Gallery. We plan at least 3 years out for an exhibition and work with artists worldwide, so the planning and exhibition meetings range from face-to-face to online.

What do you like to do outside of your work?

My husband, Ed Bowman (Fr 2010) and I live on a hobby farm outside of Orange. We spend a lot of our free time working on the place.

What are you reading, watching or listening to at the moment that you’d recommend to others? (Or maybe there is an art exhibition that you’d recommend we go see?)

I’m reading Good Material by Dolly Alderton and listening to Big Small Talk podcast. Louise Bourgeois at the Art Gallery of NSW is a must. A major survey exhibition curated across two spaces – the white cube space and then down into the dark depths of the tanks below Sydney Modern – it is dark delight.

Is there any advice you would give to young Androvians looking to pursue a career in the art world?

Branch out and try a bit of everything – whether it is working in a commercial gallery, writing for an arts magazine or invigilating at the Biennale of Sydney. There is a huge variety of jobs and roles that you can only get an understanding of once you dive in. I would strongly recommend beginning with an internship or getting a job in the industry while you are studying. It can be an unclear path at times, but fortunately, there is no “right” direction, so you can use that to your advantage and build a broad range of skills and experience.

Lucy Stranger, St Andrew's College, Fr 2012
Lucy Stranger, St Andrew's College, Fr 2012