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Wagga mum eyes a career on canvas

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga

Wagga mum eyes a career on canvas

5 March, 2019

Juanita McLachlan is living proof of the transformative power of art.

The Wagga mum-of-four’s journey from hobby to professional artist came at a time when she was embracing her Aboriginal heritage.

Just months before starting a Diploma of Visual Art at TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga in 2017, Ms McLachlan received confirmation she had Aboriginal heritage on her paternal side.

The life-changing moment inspired the name of her first ever solo art exhibition, Hidden Hollows, a showcase of Ms McLachlan’s evocative printmaking artwork.

“It’s part of the reason I called my exhibition Hidden Hollows, because that part of my family was hidden,” Ms McLachlan said.

“Doing art has become a way to connect me back to my culture and country.”

Ms McLachlan’s love of creativity was forged early, in carefree summer days exploring the magic of nature.

“Back then, we were playing outside constantly and only ever came inside when it was raining,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of money growing up so we learned a precious lesson of how to make something out of nothing.”

After finishing high school and unable to afford to attend the university art course she’d been accepted into, her creativity sat dormant for 15 years before she found a stray piece of linoleum by chance and decided to started cutting patterns into it.

“At that moment, I recaptured the magic of printmaking and I haven’t stopped since,” she said.

In 2011, under the tutelage of TAFE NSW teacher and one of Australia’s finest printmakers, Andy Totman, Ms McLachlan took her first steps towards a professional art career.

At the end of 2018, she graduated with her Diploma of Visual Art and this year has commenced an Advanced Diploma.

“The Diploma really forced me to challenge myself,” she said. “The teachers are all incredible; they’re all accomplished artists in their own right and they mould each student according to their different abilities and learning styles.”

TAFE NSW Art and Design Teacher Mary-Jane Griggs said the popularity of the TAFE NSW Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Visual Arts was reflective of a maturing jobs market in the arts sector.

New figures have revealed the “creative industries” are worth more than $90 billion to the nation annually, with the industry accounting for more than 6 per cent of total employment.

“The whole professionalisation of the arts has created so many jobs,” Ms Griggs said.

“Local government in particular is taking a lead role in establishing cultural policies and ensuring the local cultural scene is vibrant and it’s the TAFE NSW graduates  that are securing these positions. The sector has grown so much in recent years and there are scores of people now employed in the arts.”

Ms Griggs said TAFE NSW graduates have been employed in a wide range of roles, from education and research roles in art galleries to positions within local government.

The Diploma of Visual Arts explored techniques in painting, drawing, printmaking and 3D, she said, while also examining the work of the great artists.

To find out more about studying a Diploma of Visual Arts at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01 or visit

Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.