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Leanne Willis is the Manager, Art Collection and Galleries, Deakin University. She has a Bachelor of Education (Art/ Craft) from Melbourne University (Institute of Education) majoring in Fine Arts and Metalcraft and a Graduate Diploma of Applied Science (Museum Studies) from Deakin University.
Her career in the arts industry began as a volunteer at the Museum Victoria. She was particularly interested in education and combining that with a love of museums and galleries she volunteered with the Community Services Department at Museum Victoria whilst undertaking her Bachelor of Education. Every semester break and every weekend saw her volunteering at the Museum. This volunteer work gave her invaluable experience in the industry, and also provided connections that were willing to furnish references which became very useful when applying for jobs after graduation. It also gave her an insight into the workings of a Museum.
After completing her Bachelor of Education she went straight into Post Graduate studies in Museum Studies. During the course she completed an internship with the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney again in the Community Services Department. The role involved developing a program for school groups, taking tours with the public and delivering programs to school students. After graduation the Powerhouse Museum, Community Services Department, invited her back for a short term contract and a career was born!
Subsequent appointments included Curator/Education Officer at Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery and Director of the Grafton Regional Gallery. The diversity of these roles involved anything from organising a fully funded community mural project to running a weekly arts program on community radio. Working in a regional centre can add a great deal to experience as the roles are often very diverse and utilise a wide range of different skills.
From 1997 to 2007 she was the Director of Shepparton Art Gallery. During her tenure, attendance at the Shepparton Art Gallery increased from 13,500 in 1997 to 49,772 in 2004. She also attracted over $350,000 worth of ongoing sponsorship and grants for the Gallery. She coordinated the prestigious Sidney Myer Fund International Ceramics Award and assisted in the establishment of the Indigenous Ceramic Award.
She completed the Fairley Leadership Program in 1999, the Museum Leadership Program at Melbourne Business School in 2001, and the Museum Leadership Program refresher course in 2003. In 2006 she sat on the Pre-Selection panel of the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards at Arts Victoria and in 2009 was invited by Ceramics Victoria to be one of the judges of the Award exhibition being held at Manningham Gallery to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Ceramics Victoria.
She has curated many exhibitions and been fortunate enough to meet many distinguished artists. Her first love as a curator is for ceramics and she has developed a modest private collection of the work of contemporary Australian ceramists.
The Bachelor of Education has proved invaluable as it provided a solid background in understanding the principles of Education. Also, studying a respected course such as Museum Studies, gave a solid understanding of the principles of the care and management of a public institution and an Art Collection. If she had any advice to students looking to follow a similar career path in the museum and galleries industry it would be to look for the opportunities that volunteering in a public institution can provide, as well as making the most of any internship opportunities. Students should also consider working in regional centres which can often give opportunities in diverse roles that cannot be experienced in a metropolitan setting.