At this pivotal time for arts advocacy in Australia – where focused political, industry and media interest in the arts demands a constructive mode of persuasion – I am travelling on the second leg of the international component of my ‘Public space, public voice’ project, supported by the Australia Council Artistic Leadership fund.

My first stop is Chicago for the Americans for the Arts Convention. A formidable community in American cultural politics, Americans for the Arts lead national agendas and train their members in impactful and well-distributed advocacy. This year’s Convention explores power – the empowerment of the individual and the community – across five core themes:

  • Translating Impact: How do we persuade decision-makers to support the arts?
  • Transforming Models: How do we improve arts organisations’ resilience?
  • Empowering Culture: How do we ensure that all communities are served by the arts?
  • Creating Tomorrow: How can the arts be a part of creating a better future?
  • Building Skills: What are the primary skills needed to succeed in the arts today?

In these areas, the contrast between the Australian and the American situation is stark. Across two decades, Americans for the Arts CEO Robert Lynch and his team have united a diverse array of state-based advocacy bodies to create one national body to advocate, research, connect and lead. I’ll be participating in a range of talks, workshops and roundtables which bring these imperatives to bear on current issues. To immerse in the local culture, I’m also attending the Public Art & Placemaking Preconvention, as well as artist-led tours of Chicago’s public art and artist-run spaces.

In New York my focus broadens across the entirety of my theme, looking at public projects that are either sited or distributed, and the impact of those works in creating public space. I’ll be meeting with artists and thinkers who work across these fields, including MoMA’s amazing Paola Antonelli, and the extraordinary Lisabeth During who was my first mentor. I’ll also be enjoying a thirteen-year reunion with three Bauhaus collaborators and I very much look forward to what will emerge.

My Artistic Leadership adventures are an 18mo self-directed creative professional development that come to a formal close at the end of the year, and I’ll be sharing my experiences through some talks as well as on this blog. At APACA’s Mobilise: Creating Momentum, I’ll be presenting a Toolbox Tips session on advocacy, and another talk in Sydney on ‘Public space, public vice’ later in the year for SAMAG. Keep you posted.

From last year’s Artistic Leadership Adventure #1, I’ve developed a productive exchange with Swiss artistic director Jean Maurice Varone of Fondation Air & Art and Éditions Vercorin. Back in Melbourne and with thanks to Leon van Schaik, I have last month met William Fox, Director of the Centre for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art, who recently made a research survey of public and site-specific art in the Swiss canton of Valais which is the focus of Jean Maurice’s work. Having recently been appointed Curatorial Associate for Éditions Vercorin 2017, I’ve been deeply preoccupied with the many ways in which art makes public space – the theme of last week’s xCommunicate symposium in Sydney at which I presented the keynote provocations. As well as stimulating new directions in my own thinking, these developments will directly inform my framing of the second iteration of Small Town Transformations, which is my immediate focus on my return from the US, as well as my curation of the next Regional Arts Victoria creative professional development retreat as recently profiled in artsHub and the Ballarat Courier.

Across all of these developments, I’ve been delighting in experiencing the convergence of a range of interests and passions that I had previously been treating as divergent – and this in itself marks a reflective milestone in my artistic leadership development. It’s been a thrilling journey so far.


Follow my travels on Twitter. The Americans for the Arts Convention hashtag is #aftacon. IMAGE: Some of my tools for constructive disruption