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Developing creative leaders in Regional Victoria

Paul Isbel

Twelve young arts leaders came to Melbourne for nine days of total arts immersion in RAV’s inaugural Creative Leadership Program.
Developing creative leaders in Regional Victoria
Taking the view that professional development and hands-on experience play a large part in establishing the long-term viability and success of the creative arts in Australia, Regional Arts Victoria (RAV) welcomed 12 of Victoria’s best and brightest young arts leaders to Melbourne to participate in its inaugural Creative Leadership Program, designed for young regional Victorians considering a career in arts management.

The nine days of immersion in arts management were planned to help the young creative leaders to recognise the opportunities around them and to plot a direction for their futures. They would then take their newly acquired skills and knowledge back to their communities. They worked with arts organisations of the calibre of Arts Centre Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria, Express Media and Malthouse Theatre, to name just some.

The Creative Leadership Program concluded with the inaugural $4000 Bridget Lloyd- Jones Memorial Prize awarded to its first recipients, Sarah Guganovic from Newborough and Ele Mason-Sakkas from Mallacoota. The money would be used as some of the seed funding they need for a film-based project idea they pitched as part of the program. The support doesn’t stop there: Sarah and Ele will have the opportunity to work with RAV to develop the idea further with the aim of delivering it in the near future. $2000 of the award was contributed by an anonymous donor, with the remainder provided by RAV.

RAV’s Education and Families Manager Emily Atkins was impressed by the commitment shown by this first cohort of creative leaders. “This is the first time RAV has engaged in a project of this kind,” she said, “and I have been so impressed by the professionalism and maturity that these young people demonstrated during the program. We have been delighted with the progress they have already shown in the months since the program started and expect to be hearing a lot more from this group in the coming years.”

In the few months since the program finished, a number of the participants have already had some push towards their professional development as creative leaders. Caitlyn Barclay from Swan Hill, for example, has used the contacts she made at St Martins Youth Arts Centre and the Malthouse Theatre to find paid employment. She began the program with a general love of the arts, however, as the course developed, Caitlyn became especially interested in arts for children and young people and the ways that arts could be fostered in her community. She has also worked on specific projects with RAV, including the recent Regional Living Victoria Expo.

Fletcher Diamantis is another case in point of the ways that the Creative Leadership Program has been fertile ground for developing a career development and building relationships. Right from the very start, when his application to be accepted into the program had clearly established his proven credentials as a mover and shaker in his community in and around Warrnambool, Fletcher was poised and positioned to get cracking on his career. He came to the program wanting to learn more about all the elements of creative leadership, specifically how to go about organising youth-oriented arts and cultural events in south west Victoria. Fletcher wanted to have access to high quality arts, performance and music to set a standard to encourage a more productive youth arts community in the region.

As soon as Fletcher arrived in Melbourne for the program he hit the ground running and networked his heart out. By the time he finished his placement he already had a stack of business cards. Emily Atkins recalls walking in to see how he was faring in his placement, only to find him advising his mentors why their social media strategy needed a review. The program gave Fletcher a crucial moment for him to shine, she said. Since the Creative Leadership Program, the ABC has offered him an internship and he has also developed links with the St Martins Youth Arts Centre.

These are just two examples of the progress that has already been made by these young leaders. RAV is positive that this is only the beginning. “Professional development in the arts for young people in regional areas is essential if we are to find and support tomorrow’s cultural leaders. We’re delighted that this program provided comprehensive experience for young people interested in working in the arts, and hope that they will take these skills back to their communities, providing long-term investment in the future,” said Acting Director of Regional Arts Victoria, Kane Forbes.

Due to the success of the Creative Leadership Program, RAV is currently seeking funding to continue the initiative in 2013 and beyond. If you would like to find out how to support the program, click here.

RAV’s 2011 Creative Leadership Program was supported by the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust. The clip below presents the 2012 Creative Leaders. The 12 participants were:

Barwon South West: Jacqueline Avery, Portland; Hayley Dridan, East Geelong; Fletcher Diamantis, Warrnambool.

Central Grampians: Elsie Coffey, Ballarat; Emily Noonan, Birchip.

Gippsland: Ele Mason-Sakkas, Mallacoota; Sarah Guganovic, Newborough.

Hume Goulburn Region: Jack Andreadis, Erica Hoffman, Wangaratta; Georgina Ryan, Tatura.

Loddon Mallee: Annalise Farina, Kyabram; Caitlyn Barclay, Swan Hill.

Regional Arts Victoria Marketing & Publicity Manager Pia Richardson provided the background to this report. <

About the author

Paul Isbel taught at primary and secondary level in government and private schools and has worked in teacher education at tertiary level. He has worked in online publishing since 1997.