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Our people - Kay Lawrence

Kay LawrenceOn the same day in 1990, I was offered a teaching position in the South Australian School of Art and a major tapestry commission. I’d been teaching part-time at the School while working freelance as a tapestry weaver for around ten years. With two teenage children to support and despite some major commissions in the 1980s (making a tapestry for the Prime Minister’s suite in the new Parliament House and designing the Parliament House Embroidery), I’d decided I needed a proper job with a regular income. I applied for a teaching position.

As I dithered about which job to take, one of my friends said: "Don’t choose. Accept both." And so I did.

After teaching for a year, the University’s flexible work arrangements enabled me to take a year off to undertake the commission. By that time I was pregnant with my third child. I took 18 months off and the baby spent the early months, before he became mobile, in a bouncer under the loom.

Balancing a working life with family life is the challenge that faces most of my colleagues in the School of Art. Having enthusiasm for both teaching and research is what makes the job exciting, despite the ever-increasing workloads.

Since I became Head of School in 2002, the School of Art has undergone momentous change in moving from Underdale to new, purpose-built accommodation at City West. We’ve survived the upheaval and are making the most of being back in the city, right next to the Lion Arts Centre. Being just a short walk from the cultural organisations on North Terrace, our students were easily able to attend Adelaide Festival and Fringe events, and Festival visitors turned up in droves to see the Festival exhibition Writing a Painting in our new School gallery.

Our new location enables us to offer our students even more professional opportunities during their studies, while highlighting the School’s contribution to the culture of the city.

Kay Lawrence is a Professor and Head of the South Australian School of Art.