Who knows where a love of dinosaurs can lead?
For Indigenous Canberran Aidan Hartshorn, it led to a big opportunity.
Hartshorn, 24, has worked at the National Dinosaur Museum for the past year as an exhibition technician, where his duties include upgrading and refurbishing exhibitions.
Next week he will begin the Wesfarmers and National Gallery of Australia Indigenous Arts Leadership Program with nine other Indigenous arts workers from around Australia.
The 10-day program, celebrating 10 years of operation in 2019, provides professional development and networking opportunities for emerging and mid-career Indigenous arts workers.
Hartshorn said he was looking forward to networking with other people from around the country.
He will also have opportunities to learn about different aspects of the gallery's work and to meet some of the people who participated in the program in previous years.
The nine other people selected for this year's program were Shaun Angeles and Michelle Woody (NT), Angelina Boona (WA), Simon Carmichae and Troy Casey (Qld), David Gough (Tas), Juanita Kelly-Mundine (NSW), Georgia MacGuire and Stacie Piper (Vic).
Hartshorn, who has with Wolgalu and Wiradjuri ancestry, was born in Wagga Wagga and grew up in Tumut. He often visited his grandparents who contributed to his early love of art.
"My nan draws really well and my grandfather is a musician."
He said he was soon to graduate in sculpture from the ANU School of Art & Design and he will be performing his first gig as singer with the blues band The Night Jars on Friday night.
While he had no intention to leave the Dinosaur Museum in the near future, Hartshorn said eventually he would like to work at an institution such as the National Museum of Australia to help bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians closer.
"A word that gets around is 'decolonisation' that has a lot of negative connotations," he said.
The word excluded, he said, and he preferred to use a term like "reindignate" and include everybody.
"Black people are here - they're not going to go anywhere," he said, acknowledging that another group, non-Indigenous people like his white mother, also lived here.
"Why exclude one?"
He said he would like to work on exhibitions and in other ways to enhance non-Indigenous Australians' understanding and knowledge of Indigenous culture.
"I want to be a part of that change."
In his own sculpture, Hartshorn said, he created some pieces with specifically Indigenous references. Other works were not directly related to his Indigenous heritage although it often surfaced naturally.
The director of the National Gallery of Australia, Nick Mitzevich, said the 2019 intake would take the number of alumni from the Leadership and Fellowship programs to more than 100 people. He also said the gallery was expand its commitment to Indigenous leadership with the appointment of Bruce Johnson McLean as its first Assistant Director, Indigenous Engagement.
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