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Field Studies is program that provides academic and logistic assistance to visual artists at the Australian National University (ANU)School of Art to under- take field research. It has been offered every semester without fail since 1996. In 2000, the Environment Studio was established at the School and Field Studies programs were offered with a focus on environmental issues. At this time, a partnership was developing between Field Studies and the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC). With these collaborations, the ‘field’ became river catchments in the Murray Darling Basin.

Although Field Studies continued to take place in coastal and urban precincts close to Canberra, the Commission linked programs developed real momentum and social purpose in communities in outback New South Wales and northern Victoria. In 2001 the Basin field location was Corowa; in 02 the Macquarie Marshes; 03 Grenfell; 04 Gunnedah; 05 Wentworth and 06 Shepparton. This year the Field Studies program has been based in the northern part of the Basin – in St George, Balonne Shire, Southern Queensland.

This year also saw a strengthening of the relationship with the MDBC and the formation of new ones. Under the aegis of an Australian Research Council Linkage grant, the ANU Centre for Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) joined with the Environment Studio and, with the Commission as Industry Partner, instigated the Engaging VisionsResearch Project.

This Project will evaluate four Field Studies focusing on visual artist deployment in the field and their engagement with community. St George Field Study is the first procedure. Programs in Tumut, Renmark and Kiewa Valley will follow.

The Project objective is to configure a model procedure for cultural production and distribution. It is hoped that the implementation of such a procedural model will assist basin catchment communities to maintain and enhance a responsive, culturally supportive management of natural resources and provide innovative professional opportunities for emerging artists.

Members of the Project research team, Carolyn Young (MDBC PhD Scholarship holder), and Dean Sewell (Project Documentary Photographer) joined John Reid as Field Studies Co-ordinator (and Project Chief Investigator jointly with Dr Rod Lamberts, CPAS) in a seven day survey of St George and the surrounding region in May /June. The survey was in preparation for two upcoming Field Studies research trips in June and September by sculptors, printmakers, photographers painters, found object and textile artists.

Two local artists joined the group in orientation activities including light aircraft flights, community consultations and the inevitable fire-side discussions about art and life. Environment Studio Visiting Artists from Toowoomba and Sydney also participated in the field experience. All of these artists have contributed work to this exhibition. As images for the catalogue arrive on disk it is clear that there is an undeniable emphasis on the landscape and its human occupation.