Investing in the Big Picture

16 May 2016

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Rix believes the art of giving is vital to the continued development of the University and enriches its cultural identity.

The University of Queensland has one of the finest art collections in the state, and one that certainly stands out among the university art museums. It has an exceptional gallery space and a vibrant public program. The UQ Art Museum and its collection were founded on donations from generous benefactors, including staff, who saw the great potential for an art museum to enrich the cultural life of the University. This vision has been realised, but continued philanthropic support of the UQ Art Museum – from the community, alumni and staff – is vital for its growth and development, and for the continued success of its public engagement. Investment in the arts and our cultural industries reinforces the expression of those values which underpin our social and economic wellbeing.

I have always had a strong interest in art – inherited mainly from my parents. My father was a gifted amateur potter and, through that connection, he developed a fascination with Japanese ceramics. When I studied in Japan, I frequented the Tokyo print galleries and discovered the world of modern (post-1945) Japanese woodblock prints, which at that time were still relatively inexpensive. Japanese ceramics were also a temptation, but usually outside my student’s income price range.

Back home, I became immersed in Australian art, and my wife and I began to collect contemporary works. This has continued for the last 40 years. Our philosophy is to buy good-quality works and to enjoy them on the walls at home. We find that our collection is constantly changing, however, as one’s tastes in art evolve and exciting new artists come onto the scene.

This is where philanthropy became important to us. We have no interest in the buying and selling of art for profit and accordingly have been donating artworks to many museums and galleries in Australia over the years, so that our works can be available to the public and can assist in developing public collections. We have now donated many more artworks than we currently still hold. We have been particularly grateful to have been able to donate to the UQ Art Museum – we gave our first work in 1999 and altogether 31 works to UQ have so far been accepted.

Many of these are used in the UQ Art Museum’s On-Campus Art Program, where artworks are able to be hung in public places in offices and buildings on the various campuses.

We have also been keen to donate for many years to the UQ Art Museum’s discretionary funds. This has assisted in supporting some important new facilities and upgrades, such as the Alumni Friends of UQ Collection Study Room (a new space entirely funded by donations), and to the UQ Scholarships Fund.

As a staff member also, I am proud to be able to give to the University. I first joined UQ in 1985 teaching in Japanese Studies and since then have worked in several positions, with wonderful colleagues. My life has gained immeasurably from the opportunity to work in this fine institution. Our working conditions are excellent, the work is always interesting and challenging and often tough, and the environment is superb – where else do we have such beautiful grounds in which to walk, inspiring architecture to experience, unrivalled sporting and recreational facilities to enjoy, so many cafes to choose from, museums and galleries to drop into at lunchtime, and great students and staff with whom to interact?

I therefore feel strongly that, as a staff member, it is important to give back in whatever way we are most comfortable with. As staff, we know that the budget does not cover all that our faculty, institute, centre, school or division wants to achieve. Staff giving is ultimately about helping others, and our support enables the University to do more to assist students and to improve its services and facilities – such as the UQ Art Museum.

So this is my passion as a donor – to help the UQ Art Museum and to support UQ scholarship programs – but other donors will have their own interests. Whatever they might be, I encourage you, whether you are a member of the wider community, an alumnus or a staff member, to support the University to the extent that you are able.

Future students, staff and the wider public will benefit, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped this great institution to achieve even more.

If you would like to find out more about giving to UQ, please visit

Professor Alan Rix was born in Sydney and educated both in Sydney and at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Professor Rix has worked at the Australian National University in Canberra, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Griffith University, and became Professor of Japanese Studies at UQ in 1985. He has published and consulted widely in his professional academic field.

He was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor (External Affairs) in 1994, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts in 1997, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 2004. As Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rix is currently responsible for overall management and development of the UQ Gatton campus, the Pinjarra Hills site and the UQ Art Museum. He also oversees employee relations for the University’s academic staff.

Professor Rix is involved in a number of boards and committees in the education sector. He is Chair of the Board of the Xavier Flexi Schools Network, and a member of the Board of UQ College Ltd.