Dr Christian Messham-Muir
|Work Phone||(02) 4921 8664|
School of Creative Arts
The University of Newcastle, Australia
I was born in Wrexham, North Wales, and emmigrated to Australia in 1990 to study Painting at Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney. I graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts, Honours Class 1 in 1995. I began researching for my PhD in the School of Art History and Theory at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, I completed in three years and received a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in 2000.
I have lectured at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, The University of Western Sydney, The University of Sydney and the University of Hong Kong. I managed the NSW State Government's funding of museums, galleries and the Western Sydney Arts Strategy for three years, before returning to academia in 2008, as a lecturer in Art History at The University of Newcastle.
I currently live in Newcastle, Australia with my wife Loretta, a corporate trainer and coach, and two dogs and two cats. I play the piano and guitar, and fly light aircraft -- none of which I do particularly well.
2008 – present Lecturer Art History, School of Fine Art, Music and Drama, The University of Newcastle
2005 – 2008 Program Manager, Western Sydney Arts Strategy and Assistant Program Manager, Museums, Visual Arts and Crafts and Capital Infrastructure Arts NSW, NSW Government
2002 – 2005 Lecturer Museum Studies, School of English Art History, Film and Media Studies, The University of Sydney
2001 Lecturer Art History, School of Humanities, University of Western Sydney
1997 – 2000 Tutor/Lecturer (sessional) School of Art History & Theory, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales
1993 – 1995 Editorial Assistant, Art & Text, international art theory journal, University of New South Wales
1993 Editor, Honi Soit, The University of Sydney
- PhD, University of New South Wales, 2000
- Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts ) Honours, University of Sydney, 1995
- art and war
Since graduating with my PhD in 2000, my research has examined the ways in which interpretive practices in galleries and museums impact upon visitors' experiences, particularly by evoking memory and emotion. During my 2000s, my research particularly focused on the role of affect in the interpretation of the Holocaust, in art as well as with museum objects. This included research at Anne Frank House in the Netherlands, the Imperial War Museum's Holocaust Exhibition in the United Kingdom and Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland.
From 2005 to 2007, I worked in industry managing NSW State Government funding of museums and galleries. During this time in non-research-based employment, my research was in abeyance. However, when I was appointed to The University of Newcastle in 2008, I once again took up my research in earnest, writing peer-reviewed research on teaching and learning, several catalogue essays and a feature article for a contemporary art magazine. I am currently working on a book that explores the role of imaging technology in contemporary warfare through the video installation work of Shaun Gladwell, Australia’s Official War Artist. The book is will be published in 2012.
My contribution to Research Training in the University has been significant. Since I was appointed in 2008, I have been Principal Supervisor for four PhD completions and two Masters completions. I have a PhD candidate currently making minor exegesis revisions and expecting to complete before the end of this year, and two Masters submitting before the end of the year. I have supervised 10 honours students, including an honours student last year who achieved 96% and was awarded the Faculty Medal.
Fields of Research
|190599||Visual Arts And Crafts Not Elsewhere Classified||100|
In the University, I am Library Liaison Officer for Fine Art and have been the Fine Art representative on the School Teaching and Learning Committee from its inception until I went on SSP in 2011. I contribute to many of the activities hosted by the Centre for Teaching and Learning, which I believe performs a valuable role in the life of the University. I was a panellist in Teaching and Learning Week 2010, a member of the Selection Committee for the 2010 Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Teaching Excellence and Learning Support and provided advice to nominees at workshops leading up to the nominations.
Since appointment, I have sat on organising committee for two major conferences: ArtsHealth #2 in 2009 hosted by the University of Newcastle, and the 2009 Museums Australia National Conference. I’ve also represented the University of Newcastle as a member of the External Advisory Committee at Avondale College in 2010.
Furthermore, it’s important that Fine Art academics demonstrate an active interest in the burgeoning artistic careers of their students, so I often attend openings of student exhibitions and have given a number of opening speeches at the student exhibition space, Watt Space, based at University House, as well as the University Gallery on Callaghan campus.
- art history
- art theory
My teaching has been recognised and rewarded by my peers in the last three consecutive years with a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and Learning Support (2009), a Vice-Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2010) and an ALTC Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2011) for “inspiring and motivating first-year visual arts students through innovative teaching practices, redesigning course material and assessments and creating comprehensive online learning environments”.
My primary goal as a teacher is to rouse the curiosity of students through my own love and enthusiasm for art. All people have a profound capacity for curiosity, and students are not passive receptacles. To spark students’ curiosity, I design learning activities that provoke them to make connections between ideas and to consider why they study art, art theory and art history. My love of art theory is contagious, but excellent teaching is much more than passion - it is good planning and practice. I continually reflect upon my practice, develop my own teaching skills and improve the courses I teach, aiming always to remain in tune with the students and provide them with the best possible learning opportunities. My course objectives, content, assessment items and feedback to students have clear value for the students, and this principle underwrites my ongoing curriculum renewal and redesign.
The mainstay of my teaching is the first year core art theory courses, of which I am the coordinator and lecturer. These are required courses for students in the Bachelor of Fine Art program and for many of our students, who enrol to become practicing artists, they are initially reluctant about compulsory theory courses. I understand this – I was once the resentful and uninterested art student sitting at the back of the theory lecture, cracking dismissive jokes and just wanting to get back to the studio. These are the most challenging students to motivate to engage in art theory, and they are exactly who I aim to reach with my teaching. In my teaching I use images, technology, humour, references to history and popular culture and moments of shock, which I call ‘tactical ruptures’.
Among my key achievements has been my work on curriculum renewal in the first year Art History program. Drawing on current scholarship of teaching and learning, I comprehensively redesigned the first year experience over a two-year period. I overhauled the course from the ground up, refining the Course Description and Course Objectives, aligning them with the University of Newcastle and Fine Art Graduate Attributes. I introduced authentic Assessment Items based on worthwhile tasks that support the students’ ongoing development and skills, and linking them clearly to the new Course Objectives. I designed an extensive Blackboard site that includes weekly Lectopia recordings, access to weekly readings as downloadable PDFs and a weekly online Discussion Board developed to ‘scaffold’ learning with tasks and topics aimed to develop students’ engagement with the course and sustain peer discussion and support. Guided by the student evaluations, I wrote a new user-friendly Guide to Writing Academic Essays, developed in collaboration with the Centre for Teaching and Learning.
The positive impact of this on the first year experience of students is demonstrated in the Student Feedback on Courses, showing a sharp rise in student satisfaction across all areas. In the AART1210 Art Theory: Modernism course, students’ responses to the statement, “overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course” went from 4.25 in 2008 to 4.56 in 2010. In the last round of Student Feedback on Teaching, in response to the question “Overall I would rate this teacher”, students in the two courses I taught rated me 4.96 out of 5.00 (AART1220) and 5.00 out of 5.00 (AART30100).