I'm an Australian regional artsworker with a background in Commercial and Community Arts Practice, Contemporary Arts Administration, Diversional Therapy and Arts Education. Relocating to the New England Region in the late 1990s, I taught Arts, Media and History at TAFE Tamworth and established a community arts practice in the small town of Manilla, filling a void in photography and graphic design, with many community projects being completed over the following 2 decades. I worked as a freelance commercial artist throughout, whilst keeping up landscape and documentary photography, and traditional portrait & landscape painting.
As a volunteer, I researched history, designed and edited a local history website, produced museum display signage, visitor info items and provided graphic services to non-profit organisations. In 2015, after 15 years of community work, I called a halt to active volunteering to spend more time in the workshop. I haven't looked back.
ARTS PRACTICE 1970s-1990s
I began my arts career as a freelance documentary and sports photographer, commercial illustrator and screen-printer in Western Sydney during the 1970s.
In the late 1980s I worked for a short time as one of the facilitating Artists at Garage Graphix Community Arts Workshop in Mount Druitt. Founded in 1981, the Garage arts workers gave a political voice to community groups through guidance in a variety of arts activities and the assisted production of silk-screen printed posters and fabric.
ARTS TRAINING 1960s-1980s
Early training in those essential art practices provided me with job opportunities which have kept me in work for decades since. That firm foundation was followed up by a Visual & Performing Arts course at Nepean CAE - later UWS Nepean - where I found a passion for research and writing; then came a Degree course with majors in history, drawing & painting, followed up by teacher training. Thereafter...ongoing learning & up-skilling is key in the arts and I continue to undertake courses to master new... and old, techniques.
A Showcard & Ticketwriting course at Wollongong Tech. College in the 1960s, afforded me a year or so of happy brushwork at Coles Variety Store in Sydney city, before the printed price ticket changed my job description overnight, with the store's lettering workshop swapping showcards & poster paint for rolls of pre-printed stickers.
In the 1970s I signed up for the Art Certificate Course of the NSW Tech. Ed. system at Meadowbank, completing this at Penrith Campus in 1980. This broad-based course was standard for NSW art education up to the late 20th century, a comprehensive program consisting of full-time hands-on skilling in the diversity of practical methods an artist may call upon throughout a lifetime of creativity.
Lifestyle changes during the 1990s forced an individual change of direction. I began work in aged care as a Recreation Officer and found my arts training could be put to good use in the relatively new field of Diversional Therapy. In a posting to A.R.V Castle Hill, NSW, I joined Wendy Butler and Margaret Stephens who had published their set of 5 handbooks for activities workers and were operating a coffee shop within Nuffield Village facility. Within this progressive atmosphere, I saw where full-time residents could benefit from structured activity programs tailored to individual and group needs. Unnecessary demand upon nursing staff could also be relieved through diversional activities and with the full support of management I went about designing programs and developing staff procedures to implement them, at a time when Government Aged Care Reforms were set to come into practice. Organisation was crucial in creating programs, progress reports and setting up general administration, so I upgraded my elementary Windows 95 operating system to the much anticipated Windows 98, as soon as it hit the market. Within 18 months the facility's D.T. staff had expanded to an extra 4 Activity Officers and 11 volunteers, all playing a vital role in the project. As a result, the ARV program met with success and was awarded Best Practice for Aged Care programs in the Sydney Region.
THE 2000s ... REINVENTION
In mid 1998, having reached goals set 18 months earlier, I handed the task over to some very enthusiastic staff members and moved on to new challenges. Settling in Regional NSW. I joined a vibrant country community and once again saw where I could contribute my skills. Moving into an Arts & Media teaching role in TAFE Tamworth meant dusting off accumulated resources and the tertiary education qualification I'd completed in the previous decade.
By 2002, having taught several art and history classes for 2 years, I decided to leave casual employment to pursue an independent career as a freelance artsworker, where I was able to put all aspects of my training and experience into practice. Today, after 2 decades of community focused work, the Nichol Arts Workshop is still in daily use, though operating on a far more relaxed basis as a well resourced personal work-space. Snatches of recent and current projects are regularly posted on Instagram @dinichol.au
In 1988, I joined fellow artists, Albertina Viegas, Kate Soady and Atina Hrstic in the establishment of STREET LEVEL Incorporated, outer Western Sydney's first Artist Run Initiative, in Penrith N.S.W. This venture gave many UWS students and graduates an opportunity to develop their curatorial and gallery management skills. The venue occupied 2 adjoining shop spaces at its High Street location and showcased the work of 1,500 artists and performers in its first two years of operation. Street Level's relocation to Blacktown in 1990, resulted in direct interaction with local schools and the broader community and under the guidance of capable administrators such as Kon Gouriotis, STREET LEVEL in the 1990s provided the rarity of a progressive contemporary arts facility in one of western Sydney's most populated cities. As a result, Street Level was included in the Australia Council's "Six of the Best" of Sydney's contemporary Arts Organisations during the mid 1990s. During the late 1990s, with an administrative move to Casula Powerhouse Arts Center in South-western Sydney, STREET LEVEL artsworkers continued working to further contemporary arts - both offsite and online through a program called Cybercultures.