A brief history
Top Arts had a long history before starting at the NGV in 1994. The exhibition evolved in the late 1970s and early 1980s as an initiative of examiners and teachers on the Secondary Art and Craft Standing Committee, responsible for moderation (assessment). It was held at various venues in Melbourne, coordinated and staffed by committee members.
After changes to the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in 1992 moderation ceased and the Art Craft Teachers Association (ACTA,), now known as Art Education Victoria (AEV), took on the funding and coordination of the exhibition. The Executive Officer and volunteer committee dedicated limited resources to secure sponsorship, negotiate with venues and undertake selection, installation, staffing and promotion.
The exhibition was called Top CATs after the Common Assessment Tasks in the newly instigated VCE Art and Studio Arts studies.
The ACTA committee wanted parity with the senior student exhibition, ArtExpress, in New South Wales, and to have the exhibition shown in the state gallery. They approached the NGV a number of times and in 1994 the then NGV Director James Mollison agreed and ACTA met with Jane Scott, Curator of the Access Gallery to prepare the exhibition.
The Access Gallery policy was to develop new audiences. Jane Scott curated the exhibition for two years liaising with a working party comprising representatives from ACTA, the Department of Education and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). She was assisted by David Hurlston, now Curator, Australian Art Exhibitions, NGV.
In 1996 the structure was revised and exhibition management was passed to the NGV’s Education Unit managed by Gina Panebianco working with a contracted curator, the State Reviewers for Art and Studio Arts and Gallery Education representatives. Since 2004 a regional teacher representative has joined the panel.
In 1998 the VCAA approached the Gallery to request that Top Arts become part of the annual VCE Season of Excellence.
In 2004 the 10 year anniversary of Top Arts was celebrated with a Gala Dinner and exhibition viewing attended by more than 100 past exhibitors, teachers, principals, family members and friends.
Top Arts provides a voice for young artists to share their insights and ideas and continues to attract large audiences each year.