Student anger as Federation University’s first-year visual arts exhibition Benchmark is cut, reinstated

EXHIBITION SPACE: Federation University's Post Office Gallery on Sturt Street
EXHIBITION SPACE: Federation University's Post Office Gallery on Sturt Street

Visual arts students have welcomed an about-face from Federation University who cancelled, then reinstated, an exhibition of works from first-year Arts Academy students.

The Benchmark exhibition has been held at the Post Office Gallery in July/August for at least eight years, but students recently discovered the exhibition had disappeared from the gallery and university’s websites.

Students emailed Fed Uni questioning the deletion and received a reply stating the exhibition had been cancelled because the “quality was not good enough”.

“Students were upset about that and staff were not happy either because it’s a reflection on them too,” said visual arts student Holly Baker, who has also organised a protest about Fed Uni’s “lack of support” for visual arts.

After the cancellation was posted online, Ballarat’s arts community expressed their dismay at the decision and support for the students.

“I find it really disappointing that an exhibition which means a lot to the visual arts students, one of the few opportunities for them to showcase their work, has just been arbitrarily cancelled by the university,” said Ballarat Arts Alive president David Twomey.

On Tuesday students received an email saying the exhibition would be reinstated.

“After due consideration about the value of the Benchmark Exhibition for Visual Arts students and our efforts to secure appropriate resources, the Benchmark Exhibition will proceed as planned this year,” said John McDonald, executive dean of the Faculty of Education and Arts.