The art of achievement

20 August 2018
Associate Professor Jill Smith

Women have come a long way in the world of art and art education in the past 50 years says Associate Professor Jill Smith, reflecting on the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage.

Dr Smith was nominated by the Manager and Curator of the Malcolm Fraser Gallery at the Uxbridge Arts Centre in Howick, Zoe Hoeberigs, to be featured as a "phenomenal woman" in a podcast on the channel Giant Sisters to celebrate women's achievements on the anniversary of women getting the vote.

In the podcast she describes how years ago she showed students the first 50 editions of the Art New Zealand periodical and asked them what they saw. Only one issue had a woman artist on the cover. That's definitely changed, she says, and women are much more prominent as artists. Arts education is dominated by women - most of her students and colleagues at the faculty are female - but that hasn't yet filtered through to leadership positions.

Jill has taught many hundreds of art teachers throughout New Zealand. She works in the Faculty of Education and Social Work in visual arts education in the secondary school sector and with postgraduate students.

Bicultural education policy and art education practices was the topic of her Masters thesis, and she's since conducted considerable research and advocacy on how art teachers are responding to the cultural diversity of young people. She's particularly keen to ensure that art teachers - predominantly Pākehā women - are able to reflect the cultural diversity of the students they teach: increasingly Pacific, Māori and Asian students. In a current project she's looking at how art teachers from an Asian background are promoting an Asian presence in their teaching in schools.

She describes herself as "battling for girls in low decile schools". The huge disparity between Decile 1 and Decile 10 schools alarms her, as does the gulf between schools where 90 per cent of pupils are Pākehā and schools with nearly 90 per cent Pacific students. She urges other educators to support girls in schools with less resources.

Her advice to young women is that if you have aspirations, “believe in yourself and get on with it and do it. Don’t navel gaze.”

Listen here to the podcast featuring Dr Smith.