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Leadership program builds tomorrow’s arts leaders

Leadership program builds tomorrow’s arts leaders
May 2, 2011

23 dynamic young arts professionals from across Australians have begun a journey to become the nation's arts and cultural leaders of the future.

Last week the handpicked participants, already leaders in community arts organisations and managers of creative projects, participated in an intensive five-day workshop, followed by a period of mentoring by senior executives, to equip them with the skills to lead major arts organisations.

The Emerging Leaders Development Program (ELDP) has been developed by the Australia Council for the Arts, to fill an identified gap in arts leadership development.

Australia Council's Executive Director of Arts Organisations Tony Grybowski explained that "this is the first time that young arts leaders have been targeted with a residential training program specifically designed to equip them with the skills to run large arts organisations such as Opera Australia, the Melbourne Theatre Company and the Adelaide Symphony.

"The Council was bowled over by the standard of applications to the program. These are the elite of our young arts leaders and for many of them this is the chance of a lifetime."

Most young leaders admit to learning management skills on the job with inadequate training.

There's also a high turnover rate in the management of small to medium arts organisations due to 'burnout' and the lack of support for personal career development. The full residential schedule, which commenced last Wednesday (27th April), focused on skills such as decision-making, leadership, business and risk management. Participants also explored strategy, marketing and fundraising and a range of communication techniques.

Management specialist Graeme Gherashe led a team of facilitators including senior consultant Dr Kaye Remington, marketing specialist Craig Tapper and Louise Walsh of Council's Artsupport Australia.

A panel discussion on running successful arts organisations featured Catherine Baldwin from Bangarra Dance Theatre; Libby Christie from the Australia Council; Bill Gillespie, the former Australian Chamber Orchestra executive; and Patrick McIntyre from Sydney Theatre Company.

Special facilitated interview and discussion sessions involved former NSW Premier Bob Carr, speaking on political process and the arts in Australia, as well as Australia Council Chairman, James Strong AO and Chief Executive Kathy Keele, discussing influence and advocacy in the arts.

Grybowski added "the program is like cramming an MBA into five days (as ) much of it is focused on the leap in skills and outlook needed between managing a small to medium sized arts organisations and large arts organisations in an increasingly dynamic and complex social and business environment."

Building arts leadership is a strategic priority across the Australia Council. It was identified as a key need in the sector plans developed by each of Council's artform boards; and the

Council is currently conducting research into the characteristics of effective arts leadership and opportunities to better develop it.

In February, the Australia Council's Theatre Board distributed cultural leadership grants worth $280,000 to individuals and to organisations.

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