At just 27 Ashleigh Campbell already has a life full of achievement.
After completing a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the University of Southern Queensland in 2008 Ashleigh secured a Master of Arts Curatorship degree at the University of Sydney.
On completing her studies in Sydney, Ashleigh returned to Toowoomba and worked in the regional art gallery in Ruthven Street. That led to her appointment as overseer of cultural development at Western Downs Regional Council and manager of the Dogwood Crossing cultural centre in Miles.
Now based in Chinchilla with her husband Jim, who is group editor of Surat Basin newspapers, Ashleigh’s star is continuing in its ascendancy. She has been chosen by the Australian Council for the Arts for the highly esteemed position of Queensland ambassador at the 56th Venice Biennale, which runs from May through until November this year. “It is all very exciting and it is going to be amazing,” says Ashleigh of her selection. “The Venice Biennale was established in 1895 and is the world’s oldest and most prestigious biennale of international contemporary art.” This year will be especially significant as a $6.4 million Australian pavilion is being constructed, which will be the beginning of a new phase of the presentation of the nation’s art and architecture on the international stage.
Ashleigh says her connection to the biennale scene came while she was studying for her Masters degree. ”I undertook an internship at the biennale of Sydney and I found some part-time work in commercial galleries,” she says. “Then the team at the biennale said I should try for a position at the 17th biennale of Sydney in 2010 and I was selected as venue manager. All of those factors, plus volunteering I have done and exhibitions I have curated in my own time, added up to the credentials I needed to apply for the Venice job. One person from was each state was chosen to fill the position as ambassador for a period of five weeks and I’m thrilled I was chosen to represent Queensland.
“My duties will include looking after the venue, managing a team of attendants, guiding VIPs and welcoming visitors to the works of distinguished Australian artist Fiona Hall AO which will be on display. I am really looking forward to talking and working with everyone involved in the biennale, not only those from Australia but other countries as well.”
Ashleigh, who will be accompanied by her husband, will begin her role in August and continue in the position through September. “Jim has been looking on the internet at possibilities in the newspaper industry and I would like to see what openings come for me out of being at the biennale,” she says. “I’d like to think I could find work in an institution, a museum or a gallery, and that we could stay in Europe for a good couple of years. We both feel that, at this stage, the world is our oyster and that we are ready to take advantage of these opportunities. It will be a wonderful experience.”
Words Graeme Kelly Images by David Martinelli, USQ