Life Member - Dr Max Darby

Art Educator, Author, Consultant, Examiner, Artist.

Max was passionate about the “Arts” and its importance and place in education. He had a broad range of experiences in the Visual Arts and was involved in many initiatives related to Art Education.

He was a dynamic teacher whose classes were inspiring. Max took the time to know and understand each student’s individual strengths in guiding them in their creative pursuits at school and beyond. He took pleasure in seeing them flourish and kept in touch with them as many of them developed very successful art related careers. As successful artist and former student Rowena said, “Max always saw the potential in his students and brought out the best in them. He made them feel ‘seen.’”

Max taught at both government and non-government schools in Victoria, overseas at Nadi International School (Fiji) in 2014. He lectured at Melbourne University and enjoyed his Artist in Schools residencies at Canadian Academy in Kobe (Japan) in 2018 and at various Melbourne / Geelong Primary schools prior to Covid. His magnificent recycled murals are a sight to behold.

Max began his teaching career at Warracknabeal the Mallee. After spending the best part of his Christmas break preparing lessons for his Art classes, he was aghast to find his allotment had been changed to all Woodwork when he arrived on his first day. Not an auspicious start! The next two years saw Max teaching Art and Metalwork at Werribee H.S. followed by 10 years at Fawkner H.S.

Whilst Head of Art at Fawkner in the 1970’s Max was a front runner in giving students with special needs access to mainstream classes when he negotiated the inclusion of students from Yooralla Special School (Glenroy) into his metalwork class. At the same time, contrary to the practice at the time, he introduced co-ed classes in Wood and Metalwork as well as Food Technology into the curriculum.

One of the highlights of Max’s teaching career, was his 11 years as Head of Art at St Catherine’s (Toorak) 1994 – 2005 where he built the Art Department from just two VCE students selecting Art as a subject to a vibrant cohort of both Art and Studio classes.

In that time, he and his staff negotiated the building of state-of-the-art studios, staged highly successful Art Exhibitions and saw many students attain outstanding VCE results some of whom had their artwork selected for Top Arts. Max also enjoyed short term teaching stints at Lauriston, Wesley, Macedon Grammar, Billanook and St Leonards.

After graduating from Melbourne Teachers College, Max continued to study and gain further qualifications. He was granted part time study leave to study Gold and Silver Smithing at RMIT and gained a Diploma in Curriculum Administration at Rusden (Monash) followed by a Masters in Education at La Trobe University. The year 2000 saw the culmination of Max’s academic studies when he gained his PhD. The subject of his thesis was: A New Approach to Assessment in the Visual Arts at the Senior Secondary Level of Schooling.

Max’s keen interest and studies in Art Curriculum saw him play a leading role in developing the Visual Art Curriculum in Victorian Secondary Schools, particularly in the senior years. Max was seconded to work with a Secondary Team lead by Tony Lenten to produce the first publication Praxis. Whilst working at Curriculum Branch at Queensberry St. Max was also responsible for writing the textbooks Printmaking and Ceramics which were the first of several textbooks published specifically for schools.

Later, Max went on to write several more very successful books in his own right which included Art Studies, Art Beats, Art Connections and Art Starts. He was a keynote speaker and much in demand workshop leader at conferences.

Max went on to work for The Board of Studies and   VCAA where he was responsible for developing the new VCE Art Course known as Visual Art and Studio Art This involved a lot of consultation and in service sessions with teachers around the state.

In the early 1990s Max conducted the first lectures for VCE students which he ran at the NGV. He was also part of a team that selected student artworks for the highly successful annual Top Art Exhibition. After a lunch meeting with Director James Mollison, Max and David Dodd’s were successful in convincing him to allow the VCE Top Arts Exhibition to be hung at the NGV for the first time. This was something of which he was very proud and it was a great thrill for the students.

Max mentored many teachers across the state. He gave freely of his time, often going out of his way to visit schools not only in Melbourne but in regional areas where he gave support and constructive advice to teachers and students.

He was an avid supporter of ArtEdVic and AIAE and was honoured to become a Life Member of ArtEdVic.

His expertise and qualifications in art curriculum and assessment lead to Max’s work with International Baccalaureate for 12 years. Each year he travelled extensively both nationally and internationally, As Global Chief Examiner from 2007 – 2012. Max regularly travelled to IB’s Headquarters in Cardiff as well as visiting schools in such countries as China, Mongolia, Singapore, Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia and Hong Kong where he assessed students work. He also ran professional development workshops in Los Angeles.

Max was a beacon of light in Art Education. His influence stretched far and wide and he was held in high esteem by his peers and students. He also reached a vast audience through his comprehensive website.

He has left a legacy to Art Education. There is much to be celebrated. Thank you, Max.

“ The Arts are a part of education. … not apart from it.”  Max Darby.

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Monash University