It’s an honour

CBD local Su Baker was awarded an AM in the general Order of Australia in the June Queens Birthday Honours. 

But looking at her CV, you wonder why it has taken so long!

As an artist and academic, her involvement spans the nation over many years and even includes overseas contributions.

“Oh yes, but it’s not all concurrent,” she modestly told CBD News, when complimented on her list of achievements.

Su explains it as just happening to have the personality type that gets things done.

“The recognition is great.  But that’s not why you do it,” she said.  “Doing the work is a reward in itself. You do it because you think it should be done.”

“Leadership is an expectation that I have of myself,” she said.

Among other things, Prof Baker ran the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) until last year and has been instrumental in its journey to becoming a faculty of the University of Melbourne. Before that, she played a similar role in Sydney.

She’s an author, editor, artist, administrator and academic who has contributed to no end of boards and committees all over the place and on multiple subjects.

Being raised in Perth and later experiencing the arts around the nation, it was natural for her to gravitate towards Melbourne, where her family had been part of the arts establishment before moving west.

“Melbourne is a great community for the arts,” she said.

Her mum and dad had both attended the University of Melbourne, courtesy of the Commonwealth’s repatriation scheme for returned service personnel.

Her artist father (an OAM himself) actually ran the “gallery school”, which eventually morphed into the VCA.

Her love of the arts blends seamlessly with her enthusiasm for CBD living.  She lives on the Hero building in Russell St and is vice-president of the community-centric Kelvin Club, which is just down stairs in Melbourne Place.

When she first arrived in Melbourne in 2000, she tried living in Richmond, South Yarra and Williamstown before settling on the CBD in 2003.

“I’d lived in Kings Cross and Potts Point in Sydney, so I suppose I was always destined to gravitate to the city,” she explained.

She said the vertical living offered bonded people in the building closely together, resulting in strong friendships and a tangible sense of community.

“The CBD is progressively getting a better sense of its residential community,” she said. “The council is starting to respond well to the challenges such as waste management.”

On the negative side, she remarked that it was sad to see boutique retail struggling, although the “laneway culture” was alive and well.

Prof Baker was awarded her AM for “significant service to tertiary education in the visual and creative arts, particularly through advancing scholarship and research opportunities.”

And being a painter herself, her reality is not merely academic. She described her approach to painting as visually describing the present.

“But I’d really have to show you to explain properly,” she said.

The public will get the chance to see her works in October when she expects to have her next exhibition.

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