Bus Projects farewells Co-Directors, Nina Mulhall and Jacina Leong
This week we farewell Co-Directors Nina Mulhall and Jacina Leong who are stepping down from their roles tomorrow, Friday 8 July, and welcome a new Bus Projects team, Nella Themelios, Samm Sutton and Yongping Ren.
Joining Bus Projects in 2016 as the Curator - Public Programs, Nina made a profound impact on the programming at Bus Projects, creating space for new forms of artistic engagement, encounter, and presentation. Building on her creative practice, Nina expanded Bus Projects’ artistic programming to include community engagement, education and school-based programs, and socially and politically engaged public programs.
In particular, Nina led the development and delivery of Concentric Curriculum, an artist-led non-institutional pedagogical program, making space for artists and communities to become collaborators in learning and sharing.
Board Chair, Nella Themelios said:
Nina’s practice has been central to the evolution of Bus Projects as an organisation recognised for its distinctive approach to artist-led, community engagement. With successive funding investments, Nina’s work grew to be a flagship part of Bus Project’s artistic program, resulting in long-term collaborations and knowledge-sharing with local communities. Nina has worked alongside hundreds of artists in the delivery of multifaceted programs, and has advocated for caring, collaborative, and non-hierarchical methods of working. This work was developed directly out of Nina’s practice as an artist and is emblematic of the impact that Bus Projects’ programs have had on the Australian arts sector.
In 2021, alongside the appointment of Nina as Co-Director, Jacina Leong joined the team to co-lead Bus Projects through a time of change, experimentation, testing and action, imagining new models of organisational innovation and forms of dynamic, diverse and unexpected artistic programming. Practising since 2008, Jacina brought with her expertise in community engagement and alternative pedagogies, and a transdisciplinary research practice based in an ethics of care.
Under Jacina and Nina’s careful guidance as Co-Directors, and informed by their combined 22 years as socially engaged practitioners, they strengthened connections with new and existing communities of practice, locally and nationally, and supported and empowered the depth, breadth and diversity of contemporary art practices by emerging and underrepresented artists.
Board Chair, Nella Themelios said:
In 2021, Bus Projects established a non-hierarchical, co-director model of shared leadership, reflecting our strategic and creative ambitions to engage differently with communities of practice. This model brought collaboration to the heart of our organisation, ensuring rigour and diversity in our creative development methodologies, strategies and decision-making. Our aim was to create new ways of working with artists and local communities.
As Co-Directors, Jacina and Nina made this aspiration tangible and developed a rigorous and distinctive collaborative leadership and curatorial practice. Centreing process, relationships and care as the basis of their creative development methodologies, Nina and Jacina reimagined the way that Bus Projects could engage with the diversity and breadth of contemporary art practices, while also leading the organisation through a period of immense organisational change. Bus Projects has benefited greatly from their leadership, rigour, research and collaborative collegiality. We congratulate them for all that they have achieved.
Former Director of Bus Projects, Channon Goodwin, said of his professional collaboration with Nina and Jacina:
Over two different timescales with the organisation, Nina and Jacina have made a significant contribution to the Australian arts sector by embedding their art practices and creative research activities in one of the nation’s longest-running artist-run organisations.
As a fellow traveller in this highly interdependent yet inequitable sector, I have a long-held admiration for Jacina and Nina’s practices, which began well before their time with Bus. As someone who spent a decade working to create paid opportunities for participating artists and arts workers, I view it as a major win that we established a new shared leadership model at Bus Projects in 2021. After I stepped down from my role as Director, Nina and Jacina led this collaborative and cooperative restructure, equipping Bus with the diverse and dynamic leadership needed to plan the next decade.
Bus Projects’ evolution as an organisation was built directly on the long and careful work that Nina has been doing since she started with Bus in 2016, and was supercharged over the past ten months by Nina and Jacina’s collaborative, creative and rigorous approach to artistic programming and care-centred methods of working with artists.
The importance of Nina and Jacina’s work as curators and arts leaders, working within the precarious yet vastly productive small-scale arts sector, cannot be overstated and their practices moving forward will weave these experiences into a range of alternative, radical, and change-making projects that deserve significant attention and recognition.
The Board thanks Co-Directors, Nina and Jacina, who over the past 10 months and in the face of uncertainty have worked tirelessly to maintain a stable space for artists to gather and work within.
Welcoming new staff
Over Bus Projects’ final six months, the organisation will be managed by a team comprising current Board Chair Nella Themelios, who will step into the role of Interim Director & Board Chair, and Samm Sutton and Yongping Ren, who will join the team as our Program Coordinator and Program Assistant. Nella is a curator and arts worker and has served as the Board Chair of Bus Projects for the last 12 years. Samm is a practising artist, curator and producer of Crawl Radio, Yongping is an emerging arts worker, and both are long-term casual and volunteer members of the Bus Projects community.
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