STEAMing Ahead

South Australia is quickly becoming the prime location for those looking for employment in the STEM fields. For those who are uncertain, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. These fields currently offer diverse career opportunities, from medical advancements to the Australian Space Agency. However, there is one a vital component to STEM fields: Arts.

Arts and STEM have been inspiring each other for years, from Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics to the hard-scientific facts which make Andy Weir’s The Martian more realistic. This combination of STEM and the Arts is better known by professionals as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). STEAM has already been making itself known in South Australia, appearing at arts festivals and used to show off new locally developed technology.

In the 2017/2018 budget, the state government invested $250 million into Education to deliver more STEM topics to primary and secondary schools. Flinders University’s Tonsley Campus and its Innovation Hub, alongside the Medical Research and Science Centre (the cheese grater on North Terrace) are some STEM-focused buildings which now make up part of the Adelaide skyline.

It is expected STEM funding will increase with the new budget due in September. In 2018 the Adelaide Fringe generated $16.6 million at the box office and added $29.5 million to the state economy, as set out in their annual report. It is also the highest earning arts festival in Australia, generating a total of 39% of all multi-category ticket sales in the country. These figures show there is money in both STEM and the Arts in South Australia. Combined, they will make a far bigger impact on the local culture and economy than they do separately. Including Arts in STEM education will learning more interactive and fun while STEM in festivals like the Fringe more engaging and interactive.

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Beautiful night for the Fringe!

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Modern technology has been heavily influenced by the arts. Many hardware and software engineers/programmers have long been inspired by technology in science fiction. One example of this is the Adelaide based company Voxon Photonics. Their technology, the Voxon VX1, is a 3D volumetric engine that was inspired by science fiction, more specifically Dejarik in Star Wars: A New Hope. For it to work, they required the aid of the STEM fields, especially engineering and mathematics (key components in hardware and software design). They create games to demonstrate their technology’s power. The VX1 was showcased in the Indie Games Room at AVCon 2018, allowing the public to interact with their exciting new technology. While the VX1 can do other things like medical imaging, art shows its power off in a more engaging way. Voxon Photonics has advertised pushing to get more local games developed for the VX1, showing it off at Game Plus (a co-working digital games space on Pirie Street) in June 2018.

Recent advances in science and technology have influenced the Adelaide arts scene. One example is the University of South Australia’s Museum of Discovery (MOD). Opened in 2018, MOD on North Terrace is where visitors can engage with science and technology through art (STEAM). Their current displays are a showcase on the future STEAM can bring. One example being the genetic modification of children, if they’re to survive on Earth from choices made today. This allows visitors to witness these changes first hand. For more on MOD, check out our review here.

In terms of festivals, 2017’s OzAsia Festival saw an international example of STEAM. This was Keiichiro Shibuya’s The End, starring Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Unlike a traditional opera, The End is entirely virtual, containing only Miku and showcases the relationship between art and technology. This also is a reflection on the term vocaloid itself, as Miku is actually nothing more than computer software herself. Another example of STEAM is coming to 2018’s OzAsia. Called War Sum Up, it is a 21st-century electronic opera that is summed up in three words “Music. Manga. Machines.” This unique blend will be showcasing technology working alongside Japanese Noh theatre.

The South Australian Government should be pushing STEAM rather than just STEM. It is already happening around Adelaide, and if given that extra boost, can help make Adelaide stand out against other Australian cities. STEAM can help bring more young people to Adelaide and benefit other fields like tourism and education. A STEAM revolution has the potential to completely reinvent Adelaide, making it a younger, more vibrant city.

What are your thoughts? Should South Australia be aiming towards a STEAM future rather than a STEM one? Leave your comments below.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.

In Conversation: Anthony Christou

 

During AVCon 2018, I had the pleasure of meeting fantasy artist, Anthony Christou. He had a wide variety of work on sale: all his original art, as well as his comic series, Luminous Ages, and card games in addition to the series. Recently, I was able to catch up with Christou to talk about his work and extensive successes as a working artist and illustrator.

Christou is a very driven person with a vibrant creative spark. He started off with a Bachelor of Visual Art before going on to do a Masters in Illustration at Uni SA. Christou soon after decided to follow his passion in game art and illustration. Christou began freelance work in the games industry and in 2012 decided to fully devote himself to this career. Christou worked with mentors such as Rob C. Richardson and Simon Scales, who encouraged him to further develop his work. Through exhibiting with Adelaide Illustrators, Christou secured enough freelance work to support himself.

In 2013, Christou worked on a New Zealand Kickstarter game called Path of Exile. It was here that he learned more about the games industry. For Path of Exile Christou worked on a number of aspects including illustration, 3D modelling, concept art, assets, and in-game artwork.  It was during this year that Christou began his convention work, attended Adelaide Supernova for the first time, and achieved insane sales for his original fantasy art. Christou now attends up to eighteen conventions a year, earning a profit large enough to make a comfortable living. Since then he has given talks at both Supanova and Comic-Con. The best part about conventions, he says, is that you get to leave the house and make new friends.

While much of his work is digital, Christou still works with traditional mediums as well. His piece ‘Dangerous Seas’ became the cover art for The Path Less Travelled’s album ‘Cast Out the Crowds’. Christou spoke about being approached by a lady who told him that every time she feels sad she looks at ‘Dangerous Seas’ and it reminds her she can make it through the storm. He was surprised to find that his work could have such an impact on people.

Dangerous+Seas+Side.jpg
Anthony Christou, ‘Dangerous Seas’

In 2014, Christou decided to explore his interest in making a comic series. Luminous Ages is now four issues in and remains the second highest funded comic Kickstarter in Australia with only 180 backers and a pledge of around $17,000. Thanks to this funding, Christou is able to hire freelance artists and editors to help bring his project to life. Rob C Richardson, Anthony Earl, Elena Lukina, and Christy Butt worked closely with Christou on this project.

Luminous Ages itself is a series set in a surreal world where dreams can become reality. Thirteen dragon gods are fighting for control of both the dream and real world plane. It is up to the main character, Thrakos, and a cast of dream mages to keep them at bay. The series blends cultures and mythologies together to create a multi-cultural fantasy which addresses environmental issues.

A mixture of cultures and mythologies, Luminous Ages presents a story which heralds both multiculturalism and environmentalism. The series gives Christou not only the opportunity to explore his interests but his artistic potential. Contrary to the American style comics which we are most familiar with, Christou works in a style which is very similar to French or Italian, providing richly detailed illustrations in a comic format.

As well as game design and illustration, Christou has also worked with a number of film companies including Disney, Two-tone Studios, and Wolf Creek Productions.

Christou recommends exploring your artistic freedom and not to work for free too much. He says, ‘creativity can be blocked when you work with the wrong people.’ He notes that there are lots of opportunities within Australia, plenty more than when he started out. He also stresses the importance of taking a break, saying he usually gives himself one day off a week and a couple of weeks each year. Without breaks you can’t generate new ideas.

Being an artist is an endurance race. You need to spend a lot of time developing your work and looking after yourself. And it needs to be sustainable.

He reminds us that artists and writers are a business, and you need to understand creative business. You can’t have everything for nothing and you can’t expect it to be easy. We don’t live in an age like DaVinci and Michaelangelo whose artistic development was sponsored by the church and the military respectively.

When asked about the most difficult aspects of being a working artist, Christou said it was the financial side, business, and the sacrifices you have to make for your passion. His favourite things about working full time as an artist are, of course, sleeping and travelling, but also creating images from his mind, he loves being able to “bring his imagination to life.”

Christou’s next major project is a Kickstarer for theme decks of his card game Dragon Dreams. The Kickstarter is due to launch at 5:30pm Adelaide time today. That’s in just a few hours! You can find it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/luminousages/

Christou is also on Youtube and Patreon.

Check out his website here!

 


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Images property of Anthony Christou

In Conversation with: The Helpmann Academy

The Helpmann Academy is an important part of Adelaide’s cultural sphere – and it is a name that will surely be familiar to any artists starting their careers in this city. Their offerings of grants and learning opportunities – including masterclasses, seminars, and mentorships – are used by many local artists to get a start in their vocations. For people less actively engaged in the arts scene, they could be an organisation you are unfamiliar with but could well have played a crucial part in the nascent career of a local artist you know.

Stephanie Jaclyn on the set of Freemales
Flinders graduate and Filmmaker Stephanie Jaclyn on the set of her web series ‘Freemales’. Stephanie received a 2017 Helpmann Fellowship to undertake training and development opportunities in London. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Behind all this, is a small and dedicated team of individuals working to help offer opportunities to Adelaide’s artists. To discover more about what goes into reaching the results the Helpmann Academy has achieved, Tulpa recently sat down with Jane MacFarlane, the Academy’s CEO.

Helpmann Academy is one of a number of organisations providing support and opportunities for artists. We began by asking who the Academy is geared towards helping. Jane said that they ‘only support emerging artists’, people who are ‘graduates in the first five years of their career’. One of the things she says is important is that prospective Helpmann grantees know ‘they’re not competing against mid-career artists.’ It’s made very clear that for all the significance of Helpmann – that may make it seem imposing to the less experienced artists – it is just for these artists that the Academy exists. ‘A lot of people don’t apply because they don’t feel they’re established enough or they’re not good enough but everyone who applies through Helpmann is starting out in their careers,’ Jane explains.

Annabel Matheson_Photo by Ian Routledge Foul Play Theatre
Flinders graduate and actor, Annabel Matheson. Photo by Ian Routledge, Foul Play Theatre.

The process of grant-writing is not one many artists relish but it is a fixture of the artist’s life – particularly in their earlier years. On this matter, though, Jane explains that they are engaged in ‘helping artists as much as we can in their grant applications so we offer to read grants, [and] give feedback. Part of it, for us, is not just in [them] receiving the grant but [also] artists learning skills in grant applications that will hopefully help them in the long term.’ So an artist writing a grant application to the Helpmann Academy will likely receive helpful feedback to get them a step closer to their next application being a successful one.

As to what advice she would have for someone considering applying for a Helpmann grant, Jane says a successful grant is often marked by an approach showing both ‘head and heart’ – the writer of the grant must try to ensure the reader gets a ‘sense of the artist, what they’re doing, and why it’s so important to them.’

The Helpmann Academy has sent artists all over the world – from Iceland to Antarctica. That very morning before the interview, Jane had two artists in to the Academy ‘who just came back from Amsterdam and are living in New York.’ The Academy, she tells Tulpa, judges most importantly ‘what the best thing for that artist is, and what’s going to help them in their career’. Whether the proposal is ‘something very practical and Adelaide-based or something that is quite different and [that] we’ve never seen before’ doesn’t matter so much, according to Jane, rather, it ‘really comes down to the artist and what’s going to be the best thing for them.’

Helpmann Academy 2017 Night of Jazz
2017 Helpmann Academy Night of Jazz with Marquis Hill. Photo by Russell Millard.

Considering the broad and significant work the Helpmann Academy does for the careers of young and emerging Adelaide artists, there is one important question. What would be the ultimate goal for the Academy? What would it look like with absolute success? Perhaps as one ought to expect, Jane answers, ‘not to exist.’ She elaborates: ‘we want to see artists truly valued and be successful both financially and in terms of their aspirations’. Those who work at Helpmann ‘want to see artists live their dreams and be able to do what they do without having to juggle four or five jobs on top of their practice’.

Asked why the arts are not often more broadly valued, Jane explained she considered it to be the result of a number of factors. One factor being that socially, we tend most to hold sportspeople up and another being that other social infrastructure such as hospitals take precedence for decision-makers. She notes that, according to studies, ‘artists are the most educated profession in the country – and yet they’re the least paid.’

Looking to the shorter-term goals of the Helpmann Academy, Jane says they are trying to look at ‘two main approaches’. One is to continue to open up their masterclasses and seminars up to as many artists as possible. The other approach is to look at ‘ways we can fund larger scale projects and opportunities for artists as well’. In looking to Helpmann’s future, one can also look to their past, as the past three years have seen quite a bit of growth – Jane says they have doubled the amount of support.

As the conversation turns to the state of the arts in Adelaide, Jane explains one of the city’s arts scene’s strongest points is ‘how connected it is’. ‘Compared to other places,’ she says, ‘it is a lot easier to connect industry and organisations and people’. This element directly benefits Helpmann as they ‘have partnerships with lots of other arts organisations and work together with them very successfully.’ As an example of the Adelaide art scene’s ability to connect, Jane puts forward that Adelaide is now UNESCO’s first City of Music. ‘I think that is the music industry coming together really successfully.’ Adelaide’s artistic sphere has clearly been noticed from the outside and its successes rewarded. Embedded in this connectedness of Adelaide’s arts, is Helpmann, and they are well and truly doing their part to connect people, to upskill the city’s creatives, and to provide learning opportunities.

All in all, Jane MacFarlane paints a picture of a city with a lot going for it in its creative industries. There may be more to be done, hence the Academy’s existence, but Adelaide is a city well on its way to greater successes – aided by organisations such as the Helpmann Academy.

 


Words by Liam McNally

Feature image property of the Helpmann Academy.

Thanks to Jane MacFarlane and the Helpmann Academy