Arts educator draws culture into schools

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For Margot Anwar, it was not that big a leap from teaching art and design in classrooms to effecting major positive change in schools across Australia and Indonesia.

An educational change-maker, Anwar has built a career around her personal mission to make the world more connected, establishing cross-cultural relationships through the exhibiting of works and the sharing of artistic practices.

As a young child growing up in the Mallee, Anwar’s mother, a graphic designer, ensured that she and her siblings were always engaged in an active dialogue about art and artists in their domestic environment.

“I knew at a very young age that I would be involved in arts education,” she says. “My mother inspired a love of the visual arts in all of us.

“My work, as an educator, is to create a better world through an intergenerational conversation
with young people.”

Her career has spanned many educational environments.

She has taught art in high schools, worked as an education officer at the National Gallery of
Victoria and initiated a broader understanding of the role and place of the visual arts in schools
by leading art faculties at a range of independent schools.

For more than 20 years, she has been involved in educational initiatives in Indonesia and has secured many awards and grants which have enabled her to establish touring art exhibitions, liaising between diplomats and educators in Australia and Indonesia.

From initiating major international relationships between Indonesian and Australian schools in the early 1990s, to taking on a consultative role at the Green School in Bali, to working as a consultant on some of the most progressive initiatives in education in Victoria (MLC Marshmead, CUSP art exhibitions at Geelong Grammar and project managing the build of a new arts centre at Ivanhoe Grammar), Anwar has consistently engaged in big-picture thinking and relied on her personal drive to complete these projects.

Being a change agent is about being resilient, and having an impact on a systemic level.

“One must be resilient, have the vision and have the wherewithal to manifest the vision,” Anwar says.

It’s not only her students who benefit from Ms Anwar’s infectious enthusiasm for the arts.

Former colleague Sonia Murr, now the head of English at the Woodleigh School, describes Margot as a “dynamo” and laughs as she recounts a tale of Margot wearing a Go-Pro as part of her accountability to students and commitment to improving her teaching practice.

“Margot is fearless about sharing her practice with other staff,” says Murr.

“She’s always looking for the next project, the next thing that’s going to reinvent her role, the next thing that’s going to offer students the opportunity to exhibit their work.”

After 30 years as an arts educator, Ms Anwar is currently undertaking a gap year for some “thinking time”, something she recommends all teachers do at least once during their careers to recharge and reinvigorate their teaching practice.

“Schools are frenetic places and teachers’ stress levels continue to rise,” she says.

Ms Anwar says that a good education means opening up possibilities for student pathways. Her
next step is likely to be another role which contributes to the cultural life of young people.

“I feel that my best is yet to come,” she says.

Throughout her career, Anwar has been involved in social politics within the school-based
environment when highlighting the importance of the visual arts.

Principals have increasingly realised that the arts are the conduit for cultural development in schools.

Anwar believes that the currency of an image has escalated and is more accessible now.

When we consider how many thousands of images we, as a society, are exposed to every day, we can certainly see that the role of an arts educator, who is focused on creating projects for the future, is a significant one for today’s young people.

What to study:
– Focus on your art; how it expresses your personal beliefs and helps you to flourish as a person.
– Study art history
– Do a teaching course and don’t stop; be a lifelong learner.

– Over the course of their career, teachers develop a range of interpersonal and academic skills which can be applied to project management in various forms.
– Interpersonal skills to bring out the best in people.
– Empathy, listening skills, problem solving, critical thinking, guidance, persuasion, time management, writing and reporting.

– Take a gap year/sabbatical to reflect and revitalise.
– Always be open to new and expansive ideas within your current role.
-Try to develop your big picture thinking. Look beyond the limitations of your immediate environment.