Archives for posts with tag: arts management


Amy Barrett-Lennard is the artistic director of PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts)  – an institution central to the contemporary art scene in Western Australia that exhibits an inspiring range of contemporary visual, performing and cross-disciplinary arts practices. Prior to her time at PICA, Amy was the Director of the Linden Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne and worked as a Curator in the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery and Goldfields Arts Centre Gallery in Kalgoorlie. She has also worked internationally as the manager of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Amy talks to arts interview about the development of her career in the arts and what one might do who seeks the same.

Interview by Lydia Bradshaw

How important is the role of travel in establishing a successful career in the arts?

I have obviously travelled around quite a lot throughout my career – which has been great.  I am not sure it is totally necessary though as some people manage to get to senior positions by staying in the one city their whole lives!  I think it just gives you a breadth of experience you wouldn’t have otherwise and extends your network – which is always helpful. Having a thorough and first-hand knowledge of arts practices nationally and/or internationally is also always very desirable.

How big a factor is outside support for a cultural institutions’ prosperity?

Almost all cultural institutions require outside support – their ability to generate income from internal “business” activities is always quite limited and would definitely not sustain ongoing programs.  So outside support then generally comes from the Government in the form of grants and funding and from the private sector in the form of sponsorships, donations and philanthropic grants. With static government funding arts organisations are increasingly relying on the latter.

What experience or initiatives would you recommend to individuals aspiring towards careers in arts management? 

I would highly recommend volunteering, undertaking internships or initiating your own projects.  The first show I ever curated was one that I initiated with a friend and a bunch of artists – did totally without any payment and “afterhours” on top of my day job – and had to raise all the funds for it myself – but it was a great experience and a great start to a career in the arts.

I would also recommend taking on roles that offer a level of autonomy; an opportunity to make a significant difference and that can help you develop leadership skills.  These seem to be the kinds of jobs I have had and clearly have been drawn to. They have been enormously rewarding and have always lead to ever more exciting and challenging positions.


The Red Rattler creative run space established in Marrickville in 2009 is Sydney’s first legally licensed not-for-profit creative organisation. Now a successful arts hub and performance venue, the collective went through a long journey fraught with conflict and politics to get this far. Penelope Benton, one of the founders and directors of Red Rattler, gives us an insight into this journey and the politics involved in dealing with local council.

Interview by Georgina Sandercock

Could you explain Red Rattlers journey from a funding point of view?

There are five of us that have been friends and colleagues on various projects for over a decade working in different spaces, mostly warehouse venues that were illegal and constantly shut down. Over the years, many people have said we should open our own space to eliminate the threat of being taken over by developers or losing the venue to a landlord.

We knew we had to inject the kind of money and work into a space in order to avoid the risk of losing it after we had invested time and energy in setting it up. The only way for us to achieve this was to buy a building and own it. We set about working out if we could afford to do that by talking to mortgage brokers figuring out what kind of building we could afford to buy and how this would be done. Once an affordable building was found we went ahead and invested. We all had savings for personal projects, but for whatever reason, we convinced each other that this was a really good project that we could see value in. We felt good about setting our personal stuff aside and setting this up for the community.

During that time we started to research the legal requirements of setting up our building. We had a set budget that included everything we needed to start such as the bar, liquor license, fire regulations and etc. However, the fire regulations alone exceeded the budget for the entire space, which has made it really difficult to fund as it was on top of the mortgage. To deal with this we all had to scrape our piggy banks and ask our friends and family for extra money.

The Red Rattler has been running legally since May 2009. Although, we are still paying off our debt, we have done better than has been expected. We have started talking about what can be done with the money we generate and set up a fund for a grant scheme that will be established after our debt is paid off. Also, we have been discussing how this might work and bringing in more support so the Rattler can expand from more than just a space.

What hurdles have you overcome?

We had to explain to the council that we are a non-profit and community organisation, and that this is not a business that is going to generate money out of artists. We were also hit with many fees that other businesses get when they set up a building. For example, there is a parking contribution, unless you have a car park you have to pay approximately $1,000 per car and they allow people to park in the street as per your venue’s capacity. In addition to this, we were hit with a fee of $15,000 just to allow access to the street.

Eventually, before we could open (as this could not be done until the $15,000 was paid) the council allowed us to have a two-year delay to pay, which has just expired. We had several meetings to negotiate getting out of this payment, but the council were still closed to it. So last year we went to the papers, barrister Tim Robinson saw the article about our cause and has been working with us for several months now. Tim has found a clause that proved it was illegal to make us pay. His 26-page document went to the council last week and we won!

What was your experience navigating this big picture politics?

I have learned quite a lot, but far too late, about how to negotiate with the council. There are ways that you can get through the development and planning people faster if you play the game. Our first DA was rejected, well it was accepted but with a ridiculous amount of conditions that we rejected. Then we figured out we needed to go and talk to councillors and explain what we were trying to do.

There are so many people that can offer good advice, but you need to talk to them before you get into trouble. We did it all backwards. We would apply for things and then get stuck and then people would offer us support. There is the benefit of a huge amount of other people’s research. That is probably the biggest advice I have.

How do you stay motivated?

For me the biggest motivation is when I am in the space and I see something that I admire or respect. Even when people that have just come to watch something and you can see that they are really excited. Seeing that kind of thing being created makes me feel proud about what we have done.

Politics and art is a broad topic, and here are some interesting links:


This week’s interviewee is Mouna Zaylah, the Manager of the Cultural Development Program with Information and Cultural Exchange, (ICE).  ICE’s purpose is to work with communities and creative producers in Western Sydney to create media, art and culture. Mouna has worked on a range of initiatives in Western Sydney producing cultural events, performance and screen based projects with artists, communities and organizations and has over 17 years experience as an arts manager.

As producer of the ultimate collaboration during this year’s Sydney Festival, Mouna Zaylah discusses the process of mixing East London with West Sydney.

Interview by Rebecca Rossmann

What was the inspiration for the collaboration? Whose idea was it?

The inspiration for the project came about from prior discussions between two of the artists involved in East London West Sydney, MC Trey and Jonzi D. MC Trey, a Fijian Australian hip hop artist, travelled to the UK where she met Jonzi D. Together they discussed the hip hop industry and the emerging hip hop scene in West Sydney. They also discussed the connection between West Sydney and East London and the similarities between the people and their experiences. MC Trey was intrigued with Jonzi D as a performer and vice versa. Jonzi D expressed interest in coming out to West Sydney and doing something here – the idea for East London West Sydney formed.

How did you develop the ELWS collaboration?

MC Trey came back from the UK and pitched the idea of West Sydney artists collaborating with East London artists to our organisation, ICE, and we jumped on board immediately.  We then looked at ways we could fund it, what other artists could be involved, and the details of the project.  We (ICE) took the lead and found that we connected well with the British Council in Australia.  We pitched the idea to them and they were also willing to take a risk on the project.

In consultation with the British Council in Sydney, Jonzi D, MC Trey, and ICE we selected a diverse team of artists that we wanted to bring to together to devise a piece of work.

What were some of the challenges from this collaboration?

There were many challenges when it came to getting ELWS off the ground.  In a short period of time we had to figure out how to get the artists together, negotiate contracts, and explain the project to them.  The project depended heavily upon trust as 95% of the crew did not know each other. The artists needed to trust us and each other with their personal stories, and we needed to make sure we were providing enough resources and emotional support to allow the artists to create something powerful.

Funding is always a challenge.  We (ICE) had never worked with Sydney Festival before. It was a big challenge trying to pitch and negotiate the terms with Sydney Festival, as well as trying to secure funds from other bodies. Fortunately the British council was very helpful; they supported this project and trusted us to manage it.

Time was another challenge, as we feel that we didn’t have enough of it.

The only disappointing aspect of this collaboration is that we only had one week of performances, that’s only because we couldn’t afford it to keep it running. It would be really disappointing if we couldn’t put it back together in the future

Were there any surprises that came from this collaboration? Things you didn’t count on in the process of creating ELWS?

There were many surprises in the collaboration. In particular, I think the artists were surprised to find out they had so much in common. All of the artists were open and willing to share their ideas, and work with the other team members on pieces they had written. It surprised me that the artists had included and incorporated so much of their own stories and experience’s into the project. I think it takes a lot of guts to get up and share your stories and then perform them with the other performers.

Interested in further reading on creative collaborations? Links below:

John A Douglas

John A. Douglas, Strange Land Vol 1 – The Miner, HD 720p video still, 2010.

Courtesy the artist and Chalk Horse gallery, Sydney.

John A. Douglas is an intermedia artist who works in digital and analogue photomedia and video installation. John has been involved in the arts since being in a punk band in the 70’s. His formal visual art studies began in the mid 90’s and continued until he received a Master of Fine Arts from COFA in 2008. However, John dates his classification as an artist to the date of his first solo show, in 2005. Since then he has exhibited regularly and widely, nationally and internationally. He has been a finalist in major art prizes, received prestigious grants and was featured on ABC’s Artscape.

John A. Douglas was selected to discuss the topic of should the arts act like a business to offer an individual practioners perspective. John extended our idea about what it means to be a professional artist and the role that ‘business’ can play in an artist’s career.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

As a professional artist, do you consider yourself to be a small business?

It’s a complex question, more than yes or no.

I consider myself a self-employed artist, a sole-trader. But, I’m not a traditional business, profit and money is not the motive for creating my work. So, I’m really a not-for-profit sole-trader. I’m just interested in being able to support my practice and I’m content to make a living through other arts-related work.

What business skills have you learnt that have served you well as an artist?

One of the first things that I did upon graduation was to seek advice from an accountant, to learn how to use an ABN and to work out how to offset my costs of creating work. I think that was really critical in my career development.

Also, working out how to transfer my arts skills to gain an income. For example, using my video skills; I’m currently responsible for providing all the video content for Hazelhurst Gallery’s YouTube channel, I’ve produced and filmed artist talks, I’ve done video technical consultancy work, I’ve advised on how to exhibit high definition work in galleries and how to exhibit multi-channel works, I’ve taught workshops and courses, and almost every week someone calls to ask me to help develop or document works. I’m soon to be Adam Norton’s astronaut cameraman in AWFULLY WONDERFUL: Science Fiction in Contemporary Art.

Actually, that’s all about relationships as well. It’s really important to develop and foster as many relationships in the art world as you can.

Has your value of the business side of the arts changed as you’ve developed as an artist?

One area I’ve changed is that I’ve become willing to invest more money into my projects. I take more risks with that. My last project actually cost more than double what I was funded. I was able to make some sales, but I still haven’t quite covered my costs. It’s a little precarious. I don’t want to go bankrupt, but I am more willing to max out credit cards and borrow money. It’s almost like your funding some kind of addiction, a gambling addiction. But, I think the key to balancing the risk is being meticulous with keeping tax records and expenses and to keep communicating with your accountant about what can be claimed as a legitimate expense.

Do you think artists ought to act like a business?

I couldn’t imagine not behaving like a business. It wouldn’t make sense to me not to have proper account keeping records, not to take the advice of an accountant.

What happens if you haven’t crossed all your ‘T’s and dotted your ‘I’s? I’ve heard some real disaster stories about people that don’t keep good records, you can get into so much trouble. It is boring and tedious, but if you don’t do it weighs on you. I allocate an entire week to work it out each year. I do delay it, but I still do it. Each year I submit about six spreadsheets and diaries. Since 2002 I’ve probably written about 300 invoices for arts work, non-arts work, sub-contracting, for grants and for art sales. It might be tempting not include all your income, but you have to. Don’t do cash in hand. You have to invoice everyone for everything. The risks are too great.

It’s about getting the system to work for you, but you also have to work with it.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s about being able to make the work that I want to make. To make a contribution to Australian culture- I have a running joke that this is all in service to the Art Gods (my partner calls it the ‘Art Monster’).

Should the arts act like a business? Reference material that may further interest you:


There are many tales of internal politics in the arts. Most of us at arts interview have experienced, or have at least heard, of a person, project or organisation that has been derailed by internal, ongoing, unresolved political conflict. So, we have asked someone with a long-term commitment to the arts to share a little of their personal experience, the personal and professional impact of internal politics. To allow our interviewee to be really honest we are keeping their identity a secret.

Anonymous interviewed by Eliza Muldoon

What examples of overtly political workplace behaviour have you witnessed in the arts organisations?

One is management being funny or awkward about talented, hard-working colleagues. In some people they identify it and totally support it, in others they denigrate it, make that person’s life difficult and do not support or nurture that person’s career, they may even go so far as to virtually block their career. This may just be their subjective (‘objective’) opinion of that person’s talent in that workplace, but it may also be a reflection of the boss’ own personal and professional anxieties and fears.

In your experience what kinds of politics are Australian arts organisations particularly susceptible to?

If you consider money a political issue (it is hard not to), then I think Australian arts organisations in particular are susceptible to the idea of ‘not-for-profit’ salary mentalities, whether they are not-for-profit or not. Having come from a not-for-profit background I certainly seem to maintain the mentality that I should work hard, long hours for ‘free’. I now realise that senior management are probably not being paid that ‘arts salary’ – though I can never be sure, I do not really know. I actually do not know what a decent ‘art salary’ is in the not-for-profit sector, but I am aware that an arts administration salary is nonetheless greater than what many artists receive.

I am now challenging myself to ask for more money when previously I never would have, and figure that they can just say no if they cannot afford it. I hate finding out that other people – sometimes more junior than me, were being paid more simply because they demanded it. I find that very demoralising, but at the same time I get annoyed with them for being so demanding.

What is an example of an extreme issue that you have seen in an arts organisation?

In small arts organisations an all-too-common example is yelling and bullying. In some of the examples I have seen, it is because the organisation exists to fulfill the director’s vision and that same director calls all the shots, sometimes aggressively. There is no human resources coordinator or department to keep them in check. There are some people in such organisations that can stand up to these people, and I admire them for that. I wish I could do it, but it is not in my nature. Sometimes I challenge myself to speak up to defend myself or state that I feel wronged, in the same way I try to challenge myself to ask for a greater salary. But I think standing up for myself in the workplace is not something I will ever be able to do. It makes me really uncomfortable and I absolutely abhor confrontation. I guess that is a lot of the personality crossing over into the professional, I guess you do ‘take yourself’ with you to work!

What have been your own responses to workplace politics? How has it impacted you personally and professionally? 

Unfortunately my personal response to workplace politics is to get upset, feel oppressed, anxious and powerless. I put in a lot of effort and I am committed to my jobs/career and when I feel that I am being unfairly targeted and even bullied I take it very personally. Despite people saying ‘do not take it personally’, it is hard not to. I have also felt physical effects such as stomach in knots, fast heart rate, no appetite etc. Generally such experiences have left me feeling a bit ‘clouded’ unable to see or think clearly.

During the really difficult times I have found that it impacted my personal life to the point of shaping my character and the kind of person I am to be around. At those times my conversations were always on a ‘downer’, always recounting work scenarios where I felt bullied or powerless.

The professional impact is that it makes me doubt my ability and myself. I find that I become nervous or apprehensive about doing things that I have previously felt confident about, particularly when I know other people can see or hear me. One simple example is that during those times when I do most of my correspondence by email and if I do make a phone call, I will wait until the bosses and others are out as this way I am much more confident.

Now – with some hindsight and perspective – I basically see the management and interpersonal relationships of any workplace as an issue of personal preferences. People will, as much as possible, choose who they wish to work with, who they will be nice to and who they will tolerate.

Interested in managing personal politics, more information here:

sam strong

Sam Strong, former lawyer and current Artistic Director of the Griffin Theatre Company, understands the balance that is required to not only achieve artistic goals, but to build a sustainable arts organisation. Shifting in 2010 from what was a freelance role, albeit within structure of Company B, into the AD role at Griffin, Sam brings a unique personal perspective to the dialogue about the arts performing like a business.

Interview by Kim Goodwin

What’s changed for you in taking on the Artistic Director role at Griffin, now you are responsible for the commercial side of a company?

In a sense it’s adding new skills to the skills I required in the previous jobs. For example the task of managing a group of people expands from a project-to-project based task into an ongoing task. Instead of working towards the finite goal of a show, you’re working towards longer-term goals. That’s quite a shift in the rhythm of working.

There are also skills required of an AD, that you don’t possibly know until your do them, such as advocacy for the company with various sponsors and donors. As the director of a show you’re the spokesperson for the show, but now I’m the spokesperson for the company, and advocating the company’s interests.

How beneficial do you see as business skills to the arts, and is it something that you teach those you mentor?

Most directors imagine they could program better than other directors, it’s in our nature, what can be a shock when you’re actually fortunate enough to be in a programming position is just how unavoidable commercial realities are. There is a view that arts and business are in some sense binary opposites, and this is a legitimate view, but the reality of running a company is that while we are attempting to make great art, we can’t make great art apart from the business realities of what we do.

I’d love to do a play with a cast of 20, but we simply can’t and so we have to make it work within the parameters of what we have. You can choose to view those parameters as unduly constrictive or you can choose to view those parameters as opportunities to work within.

You’ve said that your first passion is the development of new Australian writing, how do you balance this with the commercial reality of building an audience?

We have to balance what is important to this company, which is to be discovering the best new talent and writing, and being willing to take artistic and commercial risks, with some things that are, as much as you can possibly tell, less risky. That’s not an artistic compromise; the trick is to do that without making an artistic compromise.

To take Speaking in Tongues as an example, I’ve wanted to direct it for a long time, while it’s also a Griffin classic. We get this sense of a classic coming home, but the other thing the programming of that play achieves is turning some of our unknowns into knowns, potentially less risky than a completely unknown work with a completely unknown writer. In a way, programming a season is like putting together a portfolio for anything, and that portfolio needs to balance relative risk with relative security.

You’ve been described as ‘lawyer turned director’, what skills have you brought with you from your professional career that has enhanced your performance in the arts industry? Conversely, where there any things you needed to unlearn?

I think there is more overlap than you would suspect between the two roles. Particularly between the role of dramaturge or script developer and what I used to do as a lawyer. The skill that my legal training equipped me with that is most useful is an attention to detail and rigour. Great works of art are always a product of extreme attention to detail and rigour. Also, the skills that legal training equips you with in relation to the drafting of any document – an ability to analyse its structure or micro edit for optimum effect – translate well into a theatrical context.

One thing I needed to learn anew was the importance of intuition or feeling in the making of work. In the earlier parts of my career I have a much more cerebral and intellectual approach to the making of work and I think my directing work got better when I got better at respecting the vital role of intuition in the creation of art.

Sam’s approach is not so much about whether the arts should act like a business, but the inherent commercial realities of the arts industry today. In his experience, these realities, and the cross pollination of skills, can actually enhance the creative process.

Should the arts act like a business? Reference material that may further interest you:

Angelica Mesiti

Installation view Slacking OFF 2002, Imperial Slacks. Image courtesy Angelica Mesiti and Imperial Slacks

Angelica Mesiti is a video and multimedia artist based mostly in Australia. Part of the performance-based group The Kingpins, Angelica was also one of 14 members of the influential artist-run space Imperial Slacks,  a collective that ran from 2000 to 2002. Exhibiting the work of its resident artists who lived in the space, Imperial Slacks also showed the work of friends from surrounding studios. The other members of Imperial Slacks were Jessie Cacchillo, Simon Cooper, Sean Cordeiro, Claire Healy, Alex Davies, Léa Donnan, Chris Fox, Shaun Gladwell, Wade Marynowsky, Angelica Mesiti, Técha Noble, Emma Price, Michael Schiavello, Monika Tichacek, Melody Willis, The Kingpins.

Interview by Krista Huebner

Did Imperial Slacks consider itself as a business?

Not really, no…to me, we were a group of artists doing our thing. We had the opportunity to take over a great space and experiment and we took it, rather than setting out to ‘start and run a gallery’, which is a different objective.

How different would Imperial Slacks have been if it had been business focused?

Imperial Slacks was never really set up to be long-term. Our leases were only ever for six months and Surry Hills was quickly being gentrified around us, so it was only ever just a matter of time really. As a result we were less interested in longevity and planning for the future as such, and more about making it count while we were there. I guess that allowed us to take risks and just go for it. You could call it a ‘hard and fast’ model!

The artist run initiative (ARI) found a natural end mainly because of rent rises, but also because it did start to become more business-y. The administration started to creep in more and more and we were all at a stage where we wanted to focus on our art making, travel, and exhibit. We didn’t really have any time to commit to actually running the space anymore…but the main reason was rent.

Do you think a business focus would have been restrictive?

We didn’t have any ‘grand plans for the gallery’ as such, or a business plan. It just wasn’t the model we were running with, and in fact we would have probably shied away from that to keep it a fluid, experimental space.

That said, if we had wanted to be more commercially minded, I think there were enough creative heads in the collective that could have allowed it to be both experimental and commercially successful. Ultimately though our goal was at odds with that and it couldn’t have worked forever.

Do you think the creative integrity of arts can be affected by a business focus? How?

No, I don’t think so. I’ve seen really creative managers/thinkers in managerial roles within arts organisations doing really great things with commercially successful outcomes. In terms of developing creative business strategies and willingness to take risks in business, I think it’s possible but equally really hard. It’s hard to be both business-y and artistic, so I see that there is real value in working together.

As an artist, I’ve personally learnt a lot from working with people from different areas in business. They’ve opened me up to directions, ideas and possibilities that I wouldn’t have come to on my own.

There is also a difference between being commercial and having a business focus. Although they are similar ideas, a non-profit museum or gallery may employ a business focus for the purpose of longevity, accountability and having a unified direction. That doesn’t necessarily have to mean they’re suddenly “commercial”, nor that it will impact on the level of creativity exercised in the artistic programs it runs, or the creativity employed in running the organisation.

What were your measures of success?

The goal of Imperial Slacks was always to put on the best shows we possibly could and try new stuff. The goal wasn’t commercial as such and having funding from the Australia Council meant we could focus on other things.

While we didn’t set goals and objectives for each exhibition, we measured our success through feedback and the responses of our peers, whether we generated new ideas and conversation. Attendance levels at openings and throughout the shows were another good measure for us, as was any critical response. That meant a lot. Continued funding was also a kind of validation.

Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

Being part of Imperial Slacks I think taught me a lot of really important administrative skills that have carried over into my life as an artist today. Some people wouldn’t agree with this, but sometimes being an artist feels like running a small business; I’m a sole trader. It taught me about publicity, marketing, writing funding applications, interviews, and reviews…lots of things.

Given the chance I would do it again – and no, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was great. Who knows…if the stars align I might do it again one day.

Should the arts act like a business? Reference material that may further interest you:

Jane Haley

This week’s interviewee is Jane Haley- the CEO of AbaF (the Australian Business Arts Foundation). As AbaF’s key purpose is to help the arts connect with business via professional development, advice and introductions, it seems like an obvious organisation for this month’s theme Should the arts act like a business? In addition to being AbaF’s CEO, Jane previously managed arts organisations in several states of Australia including Arts Access (Victoria), the Queensland Theatre Company, the Arts Council of Australia (ACT) and Sidetrack Theatre (Sydney). Jane’s extensive experience, diversity of roles and commitment to forging strong, sustainable relationships between arts organisations and businesses made her an ideal interviewee.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

So Jane, Is it safe to assume that you believe the arts can benefit from business skills?

Yes. If you come from the premise that an artist needs to earn an income from what they do, what they love to do, then the more they understand about how they can benefit from the strategic offerings of business, the more they will be able to fulfil that need.

As an example, risk taking is a very important part of art making and it is actually something that we can learn from business, how to balance risks, take calculated risks, get the tension right between generating income and pursuing passions and artistic visions.

Do you think there is a difference between approaching the arts with a business mind and approaching it with an arts mind?

I think so. It is perhaps the difference between a commercial artist and a creative artist. Too often these terms have been overlaid with a lot of values, but essentially it is about the motivation. There are artists that pursue a career in the arts with the intention of making money or gaining renown and there are others, the majority, that don’t see the pursuit of material wealth as a great motivating force for them, their impulse may be to create work that expresses their perspective on their world or their message.

Do you think a close relationship between business and the arts could threaten the integrity of the arts?

We do still come across some arts organisations that maintain the belief that ‘I’m from the arts, ergo I’m good and you’re from business, ergo you’re bad’. There is also still some resistance to take what is seen as ‘filthy corporate dollars’ to fund ‘worthy’ works. That’s fairly naïve and simplistic though. I think, I hope, that the old notion that business is just buying credibility or using their community support as a way of disguising its actual evil intent has passed. Most major corporations in the world recognise that they are generating a profit out of the communities in which they work, and it makes good business sense, for political, social and economic reasons, to make contributions to their community. Arts are a part of that community. There are typically three key drivers for business support in the arts: brand alignment, employee engagement and community contribution. In a good arts and business relationship both the arts and business aims are supported.

How is the relationship between arts and business in Australia? Comparing 10 years ago to now.

Several years ago relationships were probably more straightforward and simple. There was a more direct relationship with, for example, the chairman whose influence was greater. We often hear from arts organisations that they have to work much harder for less. Now there are high expectations of arts. Corporate partnerships are based on very strategic decisions and there is a thorough analysis of whether the business objectives are being met.

Also, there are many more players in the field (from both arts and other community sectors) so securing and keeping corporate support is more complex and demanding. Although corporate support for key institutions is relatively strong and we are seeing greater support at a local level, the day has gone when the bigger arts companies and institutions had the private support field for themselves. Now you have a whole range of organisations which are much smarter about securing funding from business and donors.

It’s a very dynamic environment that is likely to become even more challenging as needs around environmental, health and other community issues become more urgent and the capacity of organisations in those sectors to make their case to business increases. The arts will need to constantly refresh its case for private support.

Should the arts act like a business? Reference material that may further interest you:

Act like a business? Why aim so low?

• Why Business Leaders Should Act More like Artists


The inspiration

I’ve had a lot of interesting and sometimes disconcerting discussions at forums and in foyers about the Australian arts industry. As a lecturer in arts management and organisational psychology I daydreamed about gathering such discussions into a consolidated, easily accessed site to allow them to be shared with not only students, but also others in the arts community. I’m rather excited about this actually happening through the blog project.

The development

The blog’s development has taken many months, many meetings and many cups of coffee. It has been great to be able to meet with the passionate and inquisitive fellow arts interviewers and ask (and be asked) ‘Who is this blog for?’ ‘What questions do we want to ask?’ ‘How long should the interviews be?’,  ‘Who would we like to answer those questions?’ ‘What format will work?’ ‘How do we let people know about the project?’ ‘When can we all meet next?’ ‘Who wants another coffee?’, and so many other others.

The result

The result of all of our questioning is a succession of short interviews with diverse Australian arts practitioners (and stakeholders) released every Monday morning (starting next Monday) at  The interviews are based on what we believe are highly relevant arts management themes such as should the arts act like a business?, all pervasive politics, creative collaboration and many more. Each month we begin a new theme, and each week we ask a new interviewee for their responses to that theme.

We hope that through these interviews we can:

• contribute to personal and organisational reflection

• further discussions about the arts in Australia

• share experiences of working in this field

• offer opportunities to learn from each other

• further strengthen our sense of community across arts platforms, regions and experience

The readers

We can only speculate whom our blog readers may be at this stage. We imagine that arts workers at every level, from students and volunteer interns, to CEOs and artistic directors, even funding agencies and politicians will find something useful in the interviewees shared personal and professional thoughts and experiences. Though it is intended to be an Australian resource we hope that we can inspire international readers. Even though it is created for the arts industry, we expect others outside of the industry would benefit from a peek too.

A quick thanks

Initially I intended to do the project on my own- in hindsight that seems a bit ridiculous. Thanks to the generosity of a select group of impressive former students I haven’t had to. Our group of four independent, volunteer developers has now expanded to a group of 12 interviewers, editors, designers and marketers. I want to thank all of them for supporting the project and generously offering us their time and talents. Particular thanks goes to our project manager, Kim Goodwin whose management skills and commitment to this project made it happen.

We are, of course, incredibly grateful to our interviewees for their time (which is already in high demand), for their support and, importantly, allowing us to share their thoughts with their current and future colleagues and peers. Thank you.

Eliza Muldoon