On the Couch with Judith McLean

QPAC-Professor-Judith-McLeanWho is Judith McLean?
Grandmother, mother, partner, daughter, sister, friend, arts worker, academic (QUT), scholar in residence (QPAC), co-creator, teaching artist, voracious reader, lover of gardening and beauty (by beautiful I mean it in the John Donohue sense)

Beauty is about more rounded, substantial becoming… about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life’.

I’m also chair of Dancenorth, a fabulous, grounded and heart centred contemporary Dance company operating out of regional Queensland who is doing important work in the community, nationally and internationally. I’ve chaired many arts companies over the years however, this experience has brought me so much joy and I’m grateful to the Board, Kyle, Hilary, Amber and the whole company for the growth and learning I’m receiving.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
Get up earlier to read more and meditate more. Know about Buteyko breathing earlier to spread the word. Always keep something beautiful in my mind whatever the circumstances (Pascal). Love without limits. But mostly stay the same because it is my journey and I have to live it.

Who inspires you and why?
Poets, philosophers, artists and women, particularly the ones I love deeply. Anyone who is brave enough to stand up, stand out and make a positive mark on the world. I respect and am attracted to warmth and hospitality in John Berger’s words, ‘be generous to the strange, be open to difference, cross pollinate freely’. I also love a great mind, it’s my weakness!

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Without sounding pompous I’m hopefully making a difference in the world, Everyday, I try to love, care, work, and co-create with my grandchildren, artists, friends and arts organizations. I’ve had a life steeped in and surrounded by art, artists and teaching artists, arts educators for forty years and hopefully my contribution has made a difference. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Kevin Du Preez (Australia Council) delivering the Arts Leaders Program over the past several years and I’ve met some of the finest, most principled human being alive. Australia and the Indo Pacific is fortunate to have these leaders to help shape what’s next post covid.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Gloucester Passage in the Whitsundays because it’s unpretentious, family oriented and physically beautiful with its crystal-clear waters to swim in and evocative sunsets to drink gin and tonic while the sun goes down. I grew up not far from there, so for me the landscape is fully alive, with memories and a sense that this is where I’m home, fully able to let down and rest.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Obviously, I would take them to Southbank Cultural Precinct. Even now in ‘covid lag-time’ there is still an energy about just being there. Bring on full theatres and especially QPAC’s new theatre which is going to be a significant new icon for the city. QAGOMA is an amazing place to experience rich and relevant collections and the State is one of Brisbane’s most beautiful buildings. As a middling size city we are fortunate to have the Cultural Precinct.

What are you currently reading?
Just finished: Yanis Varoufakis – Another Now (amazing alternative view of how to move out of capitalism); Edmund White – The Unpunished Vice (a writer’s writer); Anam Cara – John O Donohue (friend Edwina Johnson Byron Writers Festival, gave it to me and I left it on the shelf for way too long); Funny Weather – Olivia Laing (a great read); The Bi-Encounteral Heart – A wonderful PHD thesis by Simon Spain – www.allthatweare.org.au (he should be turning it into a book); and The Relationship is the Project – Edited by Jade Lillie et.al., – really important ideas and reading for the sector. The Overstory – Richard Powers (still reading). I told you I read a lot…

What are you currently listening to?
Lots of Podcasts – every night I go to sleep with Phillip Adam’s soporific tones (he can’t ever die); otherwise mostly current affairs and psychoanalytical sites.

Happiness is?
Taking responsibility for your own life…

What does the future hold for you?
At this point in time I haven’t a clue, which is so exciting! I finish full time employment with the University at the end of 2020 and new vista will open…


Judith is QPAC’s Scholar in Residence, who has been recently presented with the Drama Australia President’s Award for her significant, long term service and commitment to Drama and Arts Education at a state, national and international level. For more information, visit: www.dramaaustralia.org.au or www.qpac.com.au for details.

Image: Professor Judith McLean – courtesy of QPAC

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