An Art School was established in the western suburbs of Sydney in 1979, initially as a course offered through the Nepean College of Advanced Education and from 1989 as an undergraduate degree within the newly founded University of Western Sydney, on its Penrith Campus. The course closed in 2008. A substantial archive of the various iterations of the fine arts degree is currently held within the archive of Western Sydney University.
Terry Hayes, who was instrumental in compiling this archive, was a lecturer within the fine arts program from 1985 until its closure in 2008. The project selections made available on the open source art school website, are a sample of the 110 projects conceived or co-conceived by Terry Hayes, the majority of which were delivered as first year Foundation core offerings, studio based projects, that came to be known as ‘Creative Strategies’.
The fine arts degree was an overtly interdisciplinary program. One of the primary functions of the Creative Strategies projects were to confront students with intentionally perplexing directives so as to challenge their creative ingenuity in response, where more questions were generated than answers given, and where initiative resided with the individual student to devise their own means of creative extrication. The ‘open-ended’ heuristic nature of the projects – where no clear expectation as to outcome was signaled from the outset, (where there was no ‘right’ solution as such), deliberately set out to confuse participants and trip up their assumption (their programmed reliance on being led by the authority of a lecturer-in-charge). This initial absence of re-assurance intentionally prompted consternation and caused the student to take control and authorize their own direction, so that they might authenticate their own practice, and gain confidence in asserting idiomatic acts that may run counter to what they felt they ought to be doing (‘am I doing this right?’).
Each Creative Strategies project was conceived anew and was not re-offered, placing the lecturers involved in circumstance comparable to the students, where the outcome from the outset was unknown – projects could be said to ‘ make themselves up as they go along’, allowing student input to alter the nature of the initial directive and make organic adjustments as the need arose. In implementing such a strategy a broad diversity of outcomes occurred (a range of modalities at both the material and conceptual level) and importantly an assertion of the creative idiosyncrasies of each individual participant.