Industry Experience Takes Art & Design Student’s Sculpture to the Sea

Have questions?

We’re here to help. Get personalised advice from our friendly Future Student Advisors. Connect with us by phone, chat with us online or send us an enquiry.

Ask us a question

For UNSW Art & Design student Sivaan Walker, preparing an application for the world’s largest annual outdoor sculpture exhibition was a class assignment that’s made significant steps in her career. It turned into reality when she was selected to exhibit at the next Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi exhibition and received one of two $15,000 grants. 

Live Brief to Real Life 

“I really want to be in [Sculpture by the Sea] one day, I bought tickets to it and chatted to artists afterwards. I felt like an imposter. I didn’t know anything about art. It’s funny that five years later that I actually can do it,” says Sivaan. 

During the Bachelor of Fine Arts course, The Public Domain, a key milestone that changed her mindset toward being a professional artist, students document, plan and propose an artwork for a public art opportunity. 

Associate Professor Emma Robertson, Sivaan’s teacher and now mentor, didn’t want students to work with imaginary briefs. The students had to write real applications and be as professional as possible in how they pitched their ideas. This approach resulted in public art opportunities for several of the students, including Sivaan, with two other students accepted into the HIDDEN, Rookwood Cemetery Sculpture Exhibition and Awards. 

Sivaan says “it wasn’t just an assessment to ‘make an artwork’. There does come a time when you need to learn how to put an application together, what is it, why are you making it, what are the materials, what’s the size." 

Sivaan Walker and UNSW Art & Design educator and artist Associate Professor Emma Robertson.
Sivaan Walker (left) will be mentored by UNSW Art & Design educator and artist Associate Professor Emma Robertson (right) for 12 months. Photo: Supplied.


Live briefs are used across many disciplines, including business, engineering, the built environment, art and design. They not only allow students to work towards open opportunities but also look at the most up-to-date challenges that industries are trying to solve.  

“I’m excited for the documentation and to see my work next to the ocean. It’s not every day that you get to go and take your artwork and put it next to the beach,” says Sivaan. The opportunity to exhibit outside also brings new challenges of choosing materials that will stand up against the elements and leaving the natural coastal site untouched.  

Become More Strategic in your Professional Development 

The Clitheroe Foundation Emerging Sculptor Mentor Program $15,000 grant awarded to Sivaan not only supports her to bring the exhibition entry to life, it also facilitates a mentorship between emerging sculptors and established practitioners.

Joel Adler, Viewfinder, Sculpture by the Sea 2019
UNSW Built Environment 2017 graduate Joel Adler's work Viewfinder was featured in 2019 Sculpture by the Sea.


Last year the award went to UNSW Built Environment 2017 graduate Joel Adler, who also received the Allens People’s Choice Prize.  

Sivaan chose A/Prof. Robertson as her mentor because she was inspired by her openness to try new things and appreciation of learning from practices different to her own. 

She feels supported by A/Prof. Robertson “to get a maturity in art making and how to talk about art, to recognise it as a career rather than as a student.” 

A/Prof. Robertson also encourages students to consider opportunities for mentorships in informal ways outside of structured programs like the Clitheroe Foundation grant. 

These connections don’t have to be big commitments. Opportunities can include asking to spend a day shadowing someone in their workplace to see how they conduct their job or even a smaller commitment like asking someone if you can interview them. 

Through the Clitheroe Foundation program, Sivaan has already visited the studios of prominent artists Dr Kath Fries and Caroline Rothwell. Sivaan prepared by researching their artistic practices in advance and arranging key questions to ask them about their successful careers. 

“A one-to-one interview where you can even send them questions in advance, it doesn’t just educate you about that individual’s work practice, it also puts you on their radar for future networking,” says A/Prof. Robertson. 

Advice to future students 

Sivaan’s advice to other students thinking about entering a large exhibition is to ‘just do it’ because you can only get better at applications the more you do it. 

“It might take a couple of goes, but you’ll see what doesn’t work and then might breakthrough and get something that does work and it could be really big.” 

A/Prof Robertson’s advice is to “be motivated by a genuine sense of curiosity and lifelong learning. If you come to it with that perspective, it comes across as very genuine. The reciprocation is important, have it come from a place of genuine curiosity of what you can learn, it’s a win-win for both the people.” 

View Sivaan’s work at the next Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi along the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk.