QVMAG’s Newest Senior Curator of Visual Arts and Design, Ashleigh Whatling, Opens Doors | Examiner

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The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery has bid farewell to its Senior Curator of Visual Arts and Design, Ashleigh Whatling. Ms Whatling told The Examiner how she came to find a love for conservation, what she learned in Tasmania and what was to come next. Ms Whatling didn’t grow up wanting to be a conservative and said she wasn’t sure many would, as people often don’t know what that entails. However, she had always been interested in stories. When she finished her Bachelor of Arts studies, the question arose of where to go until a happy coincidence. One evening, she was heading to Uni Bar and found an open house for postgraduate classes. READ MORE: Launceston glass artist recognized in American exhibition Ms Whatling took a course focused on museum and curatorial studies, which was undertaken in partnership with an art gallery in South Australia. “Even then, I didn’t think I wanted to be a curator,” she said. “The role of curator is so public and I didn’t have the confidence to go down that road.” The gallery offered Ms Whatling a full time job before she even graduated and in her role as curatorial assistant she thought she wanted to be a registrar but her boss told her she would be perfect as a curator. “She said… you are a curator, and I ignored her. I applied to be the registrar of QVMAG and had an interview, I didn’t get it but they liked me, and they liked me for the curatorial role, “she said. “I have become conservative and now I can’t think of anything that suits me better.” When Ms Whatling started at QVMAG in 2017, she said she came from Adelaide “naked and scared”. “To be honest, I don’t think I knew what I was going to do. I knew there were a lot of galleries, I knew the collection was big, meaningful,” she said. READ MORE: Teacher assistants have 10 days to comply with vaccination mandate “But, I had no idea how big this collection was. As I started to figure things out, I was a little overwhelmed . ” Ms Whatling said her apprenticeship as a curator had been difficult, especially in times when she was faced with events such as Brett Whiteley’s missing artwork, but she gained self-confidence and was well framed. “When you get to know a collection it’s a slow process and you just have to be patient,” she said. “I needed to understand that in a regional gallery, and that’s what is so great about working in regional galleries, you can say something specific about a place.” Ms Whatling learned which stories had and weren’t told in the collection and worked to help tell which ones she could in the recent change. “If there’s something that I hope people take away from the overhaul, it’s that there are multiple truths in a story from multiple angles,” she said. “I honestly think that some of the reviews we have received and the advice it has received from the rest of Australia… I am so proud that QVMAG and Launceston are being noticed for the awesome, interesting and diverse places they are. find READ MORE: Dance plan hailed as a step forward for Covid-19 restrictions’ There are still loads of stories in this overhaul that haven’t been told, but I started where I was able and hope I opened the door a little wider for the next curator. “Ms Whatling said Tasmania has always had a sense of mystery that bleeds through the arts and attracts people. The curator ended his role at QVMAG earlier this month and accepted the post of director at the Hervey Bay Regional Gallery in Queensland. “I think it’s a really good thing for Tories not to stay somewhere too long because you have a lot of control over the narrative. It’s good to let other people try,” Ms. Whatling said. The curator has said she would like to come back to Tasmania to work again someday. What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor:

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