Eight new year’s resolutions for hope in the arts

2020 showed us all that we can survive, and in some cases thrive. Eight leaders in the arts offer their resolutions for hope for 2021

The new year is a time for looking forward. No one denies that 2021 will continue to be tough, but the lessons that COVID has taught us have also demonstrated that we can transcend the recent gloom – to perform, write, create and make beyond the oppression of bad times.

We asked eight leaders in the arts to share their resolutions for 2021:

1. A future that resists the demands placed on us

2020 taught me that in times of great uncertainty and precarity, it is purpose, connection and creativity that endures. I hope to transform the lessons, challenges and watershed moments of the past year into sustained and meaningful change.

We have been caught up in growth, outputs and productivity for so long. It’s time to look towards the horizon and imagine new futures – futures that resist the demands placed on us, as a sector, and instead prioritise care, process and community.

Liz Nowell, Director, Institute of Modern Art (IMA), Brisbane (QLD)

2. To nurture the soft and enduring infrastructures of culture

I hope that ideals of civic generosity and the contexts of caregiving, pedagogy, culture, (especially the public rather than commercial cultures of museums and galleries, public education, public broadcasting, community radio, public parks, gardens and squares, education, etc.), are more widely promoted and valued by our political and editorial leaders, and better recognised for the positive contribution that they make to our community and values, and also towards the cultivation of community wellbeing, knowledge, ethics, not to mention employment, etc.

These are the areas that need to be nurtured in the period ahead for the benefit of our diverse communities, not just hard infrastructure like roads and railways, but the soft, indispensable and enduring infrastructures of culture and community.

Related to this, I hope that independent artists and cultural practices, alongside local, micro-communities, and small- to medium scale organisations will more widely recognised and rewarded for the positive and generative cultural contribution that they make, for the innovation that they cultivate and inspire, for the social inclusion that they engender, and for the risks that they take on behalf of and for the benefit of others. These are the values we should be resolved to promote and work together to achieve in the year ahead…

Max Delany, CEO/Artistic Director, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne, (VIC)

3. To celebrate artists and give them work

2021 gives us a chance to build on the good that came out of last year.  The stronger sense of caring for the welfare of others; the vocal demand for the ending of racism; the commitments to First Nations truth-telling; accelerated concern for the survival of the planet and for reducing inequality in all of its forms; and, of course, the centrality of the arts to peoples’ lives brought into sharper focus during extended lockdowns. 

If I have any resolution, it’s to make 2021 a celebration of artists and what they contribute, and to give them as much work as we possibly can.

Colin Walker, Director, Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA), Perth.

4. Staying buoyant and meet audiences in unexpected spaces

If last year we were at sea without the ability to navigate and maintain a course – 2021 will be the year NORPA will tack into the winds and embark on new and exciting creative journeys. Our artists and audiences are ready for brave, intimate, and adventurous live storytelling.

In 2021, with a full wind in our sails, we will meet our audiences in our Lismore theatre, in villages pubs, in the Studio, outside in site-based works, in schools, and in the infinite deep of the human imagination.

Julian Louis, Artistic Director and CEO, Northern Rivers Performing Arts (NORPA), Lismore (NSW)

5. Encourage our political leaders to show up and value the arts

As a company we have many resolutions for 2021, most importantly, getting back to what we do best, and what our people love best, and that’s performing.

But we also resolve to actively encourage our political leaders to show up and clearly demonstrate to the community how valuable arts & culture is in this country, particularly in times of crisis like this.

Sure we like the cricket and the footy too, but we need all our leaders to set an example and reinforce how important Australia’s vibrant cultural life is to the wellbeing of the entire populace, not just the perceived elite few.

And I’d be delighted to welcome any and all of them to see a performance at whatever venue we’re playing in around Australia. They all have the opportunity to show their support and experience the thrill of a live performance and be true leaders in our communities.

Lyndon Terracini AM, Artistic Director, Opera Australia (NSW & VIC)

6. Snap out of it! (… and blitz the COVID blues and kilos)

I start the new year full of optimism. I think most that know me would agree that I’m a glass half full person, and although last year definitely tested that, my first resolution in 2021 was to tell myself to snap out of it!

This year, I can’t wait to deliver a thrilling Adelaide Festival (it will be my first in the hot seat), keep supporting artists to create and perform, and on a personal level run 1,021km so I can lose those COVID kilos without sacrificing too much gelato.

Elaine Chia, Executive Director, Adelaide Festival (SA)

7. To reach middle Australia of the arts relevance

My reflection over summer is that 2020 gave both clarity and grittiness to the role arts and culture can play in connecting us to each other, especially in circumstances of difficulty and different points of view.

A New Approach (ANA) is going to keep highlighting that critical role in 2021, building on our research with middle Australia to demonstrate the broad relevance of arts and culture right across the country. The recent events in the US – where the power of stories to connect or to polarise has been thrown in sharp relief – give this work particular urgency.

Kate Fielding, CEO, A New Approach (ANA), Canberra (ACT)

8. To maintain creative normalcy and share stories

We always want to do the best work we can do. A theatre is about people, the audience, the actors, the day-to-day team, and I feel now more than ever, we need connection – which for us is telling stories through drama. This has been a very hard year, but my hope is we survive, look forward rather than back, and do our best work with the best of our abilities.  

The world changes and we adapt but we also need to maintain that creative normalcy for those who want to experience a live art form.  I hope for a safe, vibrant and healthy new year. 

Mark Kilmurry, Artistic Director, Ensemble Theatre, Sydney (NSW)


Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina