Cathleen Howell, Master of Cultural Economy gradaute: fieldwork and industry insights at the ‘Shanghai City Lab’.

Cathleen Howell, Master of Cultural Economy gradaute: fieldwork and industry insights at the ‘Shanghai City Lab’.

Master of Cultural Economy (now Master of Cultural and Creative Industries) graduate, Cathleen Howell, has found an exciting new career direction in an emerging field. We talk to her about why she finds the cultural and creative industries sector so stimulating, and about her experiences at an international field school in Shanghai.

Explore your passion and make it your career path

Having grown up in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Melbourne, Cathleen Howell was interested in understanding more about her formative cross-cultural experiences. She was drawn to the growing field of cultural economy, which looks at the relationship between the cultural and creative arts sectors and the economy, and this in turn led her to the Monash Master of Cultural Economy (now Master of Cultural and Creative Industries).

“I was excited to pursue something I was passionate about. The issue of how we sell our cities as cultural hubs is becoming a enormous movement, and it’s definitely something I want to be involved with,” Cathleen said.

Cathleen gained new insights into the challenges of cultural and community development initiatives, such as how to ensure sustainable growth for cities whilst also keeping the artistic energy which is often lost due to gentrification.

“The problem … is that the artists and creative people who established this culture are usually the first ones to be pushed out…so we see artists moving further and further out of the CBD,” said Cathleen.

“Once a space becomes commercial artists don’t usually like hanging around, because studio spaces become limited and tourists interrupt their work so they move out”.

Cathleen had many opportunities to experience these issues first-hand through the field trips available through the Masters Degree, both in and around Melbourne, and internationally in Shanghai.

First-hand industry insight and experience – Shanghai City Lab

Cathleen was encouraged by Program Director, Justin O’Connor, to sign up for the ‘Shanghai City Lab’, a field school run in partnership Shanghai Jiaotong University, and a great opportunity to get first-hand insights into how cultural industries in Shanghai operate.

She was exposed to aspects of the city’s cultural and economic life that people wouldn’t normally associate with Shanghai, such as the existence of an emerging music scene and film industry.

Cathleen explained how the local Shanghai music business is attracting visitors and income. “It is definitely contributing to the economy… creative people attract innovative businesses,” she said.

She also found that connecting with filmmakers was a great opportunity for her to see how creative people “are using their medium to create important discussions around national anxieties within Shanghai.”

“I thought this was interesting, and I think sometimes people don’t recognise how film and media can be such an accessible and useful platform to get ideas out there, and to get discussion happening”, she said.

Cathleen said she is looking forward to her new career in the cultural and creative industries sector.

“What I am passionate about is giving everybody the opportunity to experience and consume culture and art. I also want to make sure developments are sustainable and ethical, and are more than just a tourist attraction,” she said.

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