Archives for posts with tag: collaboration


Gadens is a leading Australian legal services provider strongly engaged with the arts to foster creativity, fresh thinking and retain best staff for its business. The firm runs programs and initiatives with Poetry In Action, Ruben Guthrie at La Boîte Theatre Company and National Art School, and hosts exhibitions of artworks by emerging artists at Adelaide and Sydney offices.

Campbell Hudson, a partner at Gadens, with rich expertise gained over 25 years of legal practice shares with us some incredible insights into the collaboration between business and the arts, and the benefits and challenges of that relationship.

Interview by Natalia Ilyukevich

One of Gadens key assets is the level of engagement within your team and its clients. What are some of the tactics you’ve used to develop that team and how does the involvement with the arts contributes to this aspect?

The most important aspect for our business is to recruit and attract the best staff. To do so you’ve got to have a dynamic and stimulating environment, and to achieve that it’s critical that there be an engagement with the arts. Some good examples of how that worked effectively at Gadens over a long period of time include a program where we’ve had an artist and a writer in residence, and Poetry In Action program with our people. You might ask how is poetry relevant to a law firm? The answer is that lawyers have to use the best words in the best order and poetry does the same. It’s our capacity to learn from the arts in terms of the use of the language and the effectiveness that ultimately charts our success as a business. We apply that philosophy to come up with a solution that is innovative and focused on clients’ needs, not necessarily the lawyers’ analysis of the law. And in that regard the arts is a wonderful way to inspire us and to help us along that path.

How do you choose the entities from the arts that you want to establish a relationship with and support?

We are certainly looking at supporting emerging talent because we think that’s the market that deserves and requires our support, and resonates with our young talent at Gadens. We are a young firm with 400 staff with 80% under the age of 30. As part of that dynamic we look for artwork that inspires, challenges and intrigues young people. Virginia Wilson, the art curator, works with us in selecting artists that she thinks are appropriate for us to support. Virginia has played a key role in selecting a young artist whose projection installation work challenges, but isn’t offensive or seen as out of step with the fact that we are a leading law firm in this country with top ten clients in the banking and property sector. So the artwork needs to be dynamic, stimulating and challenging in terms of what you’d expect from emerging artists, but at the same time it needs to be of such type that is not going to alienate or offend people.

Gadens describes itself as “A place where fresh thinking and new ideas are championed daily”. Does your relationship with the arts helps to encourage and nurture such “fresh thinking”? How?

Yes, it is absolutely imperative that we have fresh thinking in our challenging and dynamic environment and the arts of course is a wonderful inspiration. We have a very strong relationship with the National Arts School that has evolved into us having a function at their postgraduate exhibition last year where lawyers and our emerging talent were fortunate enough to be inspired by the displayed artwork. It was a very stimulating and enlightening event – our people came back with their creative thinking processes stimulated by that sort of engagement. We’ve also got a program that supports the Australian Youth Orchestra and Pacific Opera. So we are incredibly receptive to new ideas especially when it comes to our technology solutions – it’s very interesting to see that the technology piece works so effectively at our firm because we have an environment that encourages creativity.

What are some of the challenges for a sustainable relationship between the business and arts?

The challenge is to ensure that our engagement with the arts is focused on an aspect that resonates and relates to the partners and our staff. Recently, I was introduced to some young artists using vacant property as sites for art installation. In turn, this creates a direct link between property companies and the arts. At Gadens our core areas are banking and property – so if we are going to look at the engagement with the arts it would be wonderful to look at those sorts of initiatives from a property point of view. To work with our property clients and artists in relation to vacant spaces or vacant offices that can be utilised in a creative fashion would set a style of engagement that’s very important. However, if we’re going to have a sustainable long term engagement with the arts it has to be relevant to all our people, and have a commercial aspect that makes sense and resonates. So, that is a challenge but one that we are really keen to meet.


Adam Synnott is an independent artist, contemporary dancer and designer. Synnott’s roots are grounded in the contemporary dance world, having previously worked for companies Leigh Warren + Dancers, Australian Dance Theatre, Chunky Move and Sue Healey as well as many independent artists. In 2008 Synnott and Jason Lam, also a fellow artist and dancer started design studios, Kaboom Studios and have designed for theatre, film and installation with notable names such as Graeme Murphy.

Synnott is currently working with Leigh Warren on his new work Touch and collaborating on a new dance and media work Chance with Lisa Griffiths, Craig Bary and Josh Thomson. Later on this year he will spend time in development at the Critical Path (SYD) and Tas Dance (TAS) studios. In addition to all this he is part way through studying a Masters of Interactive Multimedia at UTS in Sydney.

Adam talked to arts interview about collaboration in dance and the projects he is currently working on.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

What are the differences in collaborative methods between dance and design, besides the obvious difference in style?

Being a dancer I’m always designing from a dance perspective so I couldn’t really comment on the differences between the two except that dance is so physical and is invariably developed from an internal and almost unconscious place. Dance can also happen a little more instantly and be created in the moment. Design perhaps is a little more of a conscious and planned thing. The challenge then becomes how to create designs for dance while it’s being created in the studio. When collaborating with Lisa Griffiths and Craig Bary on their work Side to One, this usually resulted in a great many late nights getting stuff ready in time for the next day’s rehearsal. Craig makes a great coffee so it was all OK.

Can you tell us a bit more about your collaboration with your wife and fellow dancer, Lisa Griffiths. What have been the positive and negative aspects of working with your partner?

It’s all good. Lisa and I already have a common understanding and a strong vision for our work together. We work intuitively and at a level that only comes from such a place of trust and involvement, we often don’t need to talk everything through we can just dive into an idea head first. There’s no greater joy than getting in a studio and working with your friends and Lisa is my best friend.

Contemporary choreography today is very much a collaborative practice between choreographers and dancers. Can you articulate the difference between working for a choreographer who ultimately bills the work as their own, compared to a work which is billed as collaborative?

This is definitely something that I’ve come up against a little bit over the years. This type of work spans across the technical, creative and collaborative aspects of working with other artists and organisations. The line is somewhat blurred and the specific role that I fill is dependent on the individual project. Most of the time billing is not a problem, especially with independent artists, they are generally awesome and understanding. Sometimes you have to fight for recognition of your own work (not always successful) and sometimes people just flat out steal your ideas. You have just got to role with the punches I suppose and hope that your work will speak for itself in the end.

At Kaboom Studios you work with fellow artist and dancer Jason Lam, how do you two work together effectively as a business and as artists?

I wonder that same thing myself sometimes. Jason lives in Darwin (he’s a doctor of all things) while I’m between Sydney and Adelaide so it gets a little complicated at times. I don’t think we could sustain a business as well as work creatively together without ‘the cloud’ (cloud computing). We’re lucky our partnership has emerged at roughly the same time as services like drop-box and google docs so we’ve never really had to do without it, though I can’t imagine how we could. We keep or business model as flexible as we can and just try and keep it fun and interesting for ourselves.

What do you think is a key guideline to remember when working with other people?

One of the pitfalls of collaborating with other people, especially with people from different disciplines is communication and finding a common language. If you find a common language between your collaborators early on in the project your off to a great start.


Gaffa is an artist-run initiative committed to providing an accessible creative space for emerging artists in Sydney. With its accessible CBD location, situated in a beautiful heritage listed building, Gaffa’s business is all about promoting and nurturing cross-platform collaboration, collectivity and cohesion within the contemporary art community. Since moving into its current location, Gaffa has expanded into a complex of gallery, studios, workshops and a retail arcade. Gaffa’s initiative director, Kelly Robson talks to arts interview about the Gaffa journey.

Interview by Iris SiYi Shen

Can you tell us about yourself and the Gaffa Creative Precinct?

I am one of the founding directors of Gaffa so have now been in this role for coming up to 7 years. My only formal education is in the visual arts, for which I have a Masters Degree. Gaffa is first and foremost, about access. For artists and designers this is access to space, access to networks, equipment, support and an infra-structure. For our patrons, its access to a welcoming environment which the public doesn’t often get to be a part of. They can become part of our community, come to exhibitions, social events, attend workshops and open studio days and support us by buying exhibition pieces and retail items. They can enjoy a genuine experience that isn’t homogenized or franchised, which in our current location of the CBD, is pretty hard to come by.

Tell us about Gaffa’s journey, starting as a small gallery in Surry Hills to becoming an established Artist Run Initiative (ARI) that dabbles across the art, fashion and design fields. Can you articulate Gaffa’s growth as an ARI?

Gaffa was established at a time when many artist spaces were in flux. Between 2004 and 2006 a number of spaces closed down (Kilo Gallery, Space 3, Imperial Slacks, Quadrivium, Gallery 156) just to name a few. In fact one of the first spaces I was involved with, ‘The Wedding Circle’ in Chippendale was closed down by council after only a year of being open with the reason being cited as a “place of unlawful assembly”. However the closure, and also general climate of instability in the ARI community is what motivated me to comply with council requirements and red-tape in all endeavors since then, (as much as possible) to avoid disappointments down the track.

For this month, the theme for arts interview is collaboration; can you tell us what collaboration means to the Gaffa Creative Precinct?

Collaboration means everything to Gaffa. If not directly on projects, then through developing a supportive community and frame-work through which people can feel comfortable trying, testing and refining their ideas. Having numerous projects, exhibitions, launches and artists upstairs in the studios at any one time creates a certain dynamic in the building. Frequently, when people walk through our doors for the first time, they comment on the energy in the building. They can feel the excitement and the intent. Creative networks are collaborative by necessity, it is critical to pool resources, to support each others projects and to create strength in numbers in general.

Currently Gaffa is home to a handful of fashion labels and homeware stores, what do you think about the dynamics of these retail spaces in relation to the gallery spaces and artist studios upstairs?

Having the crossover of activities in the building is critical to what we do. Our store, cafe and arcade work well on the ground level as they serve as a welcoming ‘entry’ point for random passersby. It is a familiar and easily accessible environment. Once they have entered, they realise there is much more going on inside and are hopefully hooked! Since moving to what is a much larger building we have adopted the phrase ‘Creative Precinct’ and the fact that you can meet with our artists and designers, have a coffee while you browse, see art works and also purchase quality design work on the ground floor all works together to create an almost physically felt dynamic and energy. Something often commented on by our patrons.

 What are the challenges Gaffa faces as a Creative Precinct?

I guess first and foremost is the obvious, which is being disciplined enough to sustain our infra-structure. Everyone who works here is a practicing artist, yet the tasks that need to be done each day are so diverse. Everyone here learns everything on the go! But that’s also the great thing about here. People who come on board can choose what skill-set they want to develop and then really run with it. The second is also obvious, which is making sure that we choose to spend the money that we manage to make on things that will increase our longevity.

he made she made

He Made She Made (HMSM) are the recent recipients of a grant from the City of Sydney (CoS), subsidizing creative spaces to revitalize Oxford Street. The four members of He Made She Made, Bent Patterson, Maaike Pullar, Laura Kepreotis and Patrick Chambers, create and curate works within this space which, may be considered art, but often encompass the functionality and utility of a design piece. The collective sat down with arts interview to talk about the gallery space and the process of establishing a new collaboration.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

How did the HMSM collaboration begin?

Three of us knew each other from university and work and two of us were planning collaborative projects already. We all ended up looking for space and opportunity to try new things around the same time. The City of Sydney began a push to revitalize the lower end of Oxford Street through subsidised rent for creative spaces, which provided the impetus to form officially. What followed was a series of ‘meetings’ or sessions at the pub where the four of us talked about world domination and the like. Our agendas were written on the back of coasters.

What do you think are the pros and cons of collaboration in an opportunity such as this grant, compared to other collaborations such as forming out of art school, mutual friends, working together on another project etc?

 I think the opportunity from the CoS probably gave us a reason to push ourselves, a reason to collaborate. Certainly I think if we hadn’t had the CoS expressions of interest deadline we would still be discussing how to set ourselves up, if we wanted to be a collective, if our practices even meshed. Once you’re out of uni/art school, furniture and prototyping is a solitary sort of project, but the need to keep the space open really required a team effort. It’s turned out to be awesome, having people around to bounce ideas and processes with.

The major pro is location. We would never have been able to afford a space entirely for ourselves on Oxford street without sharing it with 20 other artists, which is where most collectives start out I guess – in shared spaces. Conversely, a major con is that we are temporary. We aren’t going to exist in the space for a normal 2-5 year lease, so there is pressure to accelerate things.

How do HMSM see themselves as a group in the pop up gallery? As craftsmen/ artists/ curators/gallery managers? How do you manage this juggling of multiple roles?

One of us works professionally as an art director, one as an experiential designer, one as an interior designer and one as a furniture resurrector. We all have different backgrounds, and some of us suit certain roles more than others. I don’t think we see ourselves as being one particular thing, even if we all ‘make’ things. There’s a huge crossover of skills and we all attempt to don the craftsmen/artist/curator/manager hat with support from each other.  We all have our opinions about all aspects of the running of the gallery, and we hear and respect those ideas. Some of us prefer the making of things and being able to facilitate the gallery from a practical level. Others have a strong interest in curating, or in running the gallery so the rest of us can take a step back.

Do you think a business/ artistic collaboration has worked effectively? Do you think it is better to have the two roles ideally separate?

 Most of us have worked in our industries long enough to know that 80% of the time you are running a business and 20% of the time you might get to do something creative. It would be nice to be able to get the business to a level of self management at some stage so we can all focus on our own work – but then we wouldn’t be He Made She Made anymore. Every decision we’ve made so far has been together, be it creatively or in relation to business. You definitely wear different hats when you’re working together. Talking about finance or the running of the business is a totally different mindset to discussing the way to join two pieces of wood – or pull your hand out of a silicone mould.

What is the grand plan for HMSM after the completion of the pop up gallery? Do you see a continued collaboration?

 The CoS has given us a low investment opportunity to trial HMSM as we see it now. We don’t know what public response and the local community will bring to the mix. It’s already creating interest and opportunities for us as a collective and individually, so who knows where HMSM will be in 12 months. Hopefully it will live on in some form – we’ll have a model and a business plan to take to the bank.

He Made She Made’s second exhibition: The Second Coming opens Tuesday March 13, from 6.

will deague

Being a design lover and keen marketer I have watched the development of Art Series Hotels with much interest. A company that embodies the idea of collaboration and seems to whole heartedly embrace their artistic partnerships throughout all aspects of their business, I was keen to chat to CEO Will Deague about their collaborative process.

Interview by Krista Huebner

Your collaboration with contemporary artists is very much an intrinsic part of your hotels’ overall identity and brand experience, and in fact is at the core of your business model. What was your inspiration for collaborating with artists?

Our family business is property development and hotels, with most of our experience in more traditional hotel models. When we were looking to develop the sites that the Art Series Hotels sit on, we knew we had the chance to do something completely different. We set out with that goal in mind, and originally had the idea to incorporate more art into the hotels. We were inspired by the popularity of design-led, boutique hotels overseas, like those of Ian Schrager working with Julian Schnabel. From there, our idea of working with art evolved into working with artists to become a completely artist-led hotel.

What challenges did you face working with visual artists? How did you react to these (i.e. what did you do/change/adapt)?

As all artists are NSW based we suffered sometimes from the tyranny of distance, but it was mostly abated by good planning and ensuring clear communication.

Another thing to consider was the art itself. For example, Adam Cullen’s work is really exciting though at times can be controversial; so we had to think about that and if the artists were perhaps more contentious, where they would be placed and how they would be displayed.

Artists work to a different timeline to businesses, so that was something we needed to be considerate of when developing our timelines for each hotel. They also work very differently as a whole. We found that the most important thing for us in working with each artist was being very clear about what we were trying to achieve and how we wanted to work together.

From the outset we used an art consultant who knew both us and the artists very well. He helped facilitate conversations and kept everyone on the same path, whether representing the interests or concerns of the artist to the business, or those of the business back to the artist. Being upfront about the commercial side of things meant that everyone knew how it would work and what was expected.

The artists you have worked with (Adam Cullen, John Olsen, Charles Blackman) are all well-known artists in Australian contemporary art. How did you decide which artists to collaborate with?

Our family has been involved with artists and the art world for years as collectors and philanthropists through the Deague Family Art Foundation. About 10 years ago we travelled with 10 artists to William Creek at Lake Eyre to experience the saltpans and work in bush studios. It was an incredible experience, and started a relationship with many of the artists who we are working with today.

The actual location of each hotel also helped us decide which artists to approach. For example, the Chapel Street location is a great fit for John Olsen, the elegant older statesman, while Adam Cullen is an edgy artist who is better matched with the Prahran/Windsor location.

Have there been any unexpected benefits to the partnership/collaboration, either to you personally, professionally or to the wider business?

As a family, we’ve always been so passionate about the art. It’s a great thing to connect people to contemporary art in a new way. People might initially book with us because it’s a great boutique hotel and then walk away with not only a great hotel experience but also a cool art experience under their belt. So the art education aspect of this has been fantastic, and that also translates to staff. Staff is trained about the art and artists, and additionally knows a lot about what’s happening in Melbourne at a cultural level. People are responding to that and we’re noticing that potential staff is seeking us out as an employer of choice. That’s something to be proud of.

What are the 3 key things you would advise other business managers looking to follow a similar collaborative model?

  1. Be open and honest from the start with the artists – what the end product is going to be and how you want to work with them.
  2. Treat artists with respect. Don’t try to capitalise on their work or reputation, and respect their craft and expertise.
  3. Stick to your guns. Stay true to your values and vision. We built a new hotel brand from scratch by staying true to our strategic vision.

Further reading on creative collaboration: