Esther Anatolitis is Executive Director of NAVA, leading policy, advocacy and action for a contemporary arts sector that’s ambitious and fair.
Esther is a writer, facilitator and critic with an abiding interest in how art creates public space in all its forms. Her practice rigorously integrates professional and artistic modes of working to create collaborations, projects and workplaces that promote a critical reflection on practice. A passionate advocate for the arts, Esther is Deputy Chair of Contemporary Arts Precincts, and a former board member of ACMI, Elbow Room, the Arts Industry Council (Victoria) and Regional Arts Australia.
Esther has facilitated and collaborated on creative projects across a range of media and locations, and her critique has a strong focus on visual, spatial and experimental art including sound and literature. Her academic background is in European philosophy, and she also holds the postgraduate Zertifikat BauhausDessau for her work on the international architectural project Serve City: Interactive Urbanism for which she was awarded a DAAD Künstlerprogramm residency. At the Bauhaus, Esther worked within a studio model that embraced the cross-disciplinary collaboration practices of the home of Modernism, as well as leading a weekly concept workshop for the broader Bauhaus community. With Dr Hélène Frichot, she then co-curated Architecture+Philosophy for ten years. Esther has taught into the studio program at RMIT School of Architecture & Design, and has presented the Architecture Curriculum at The School of Life Melbourne. In 2016 Esther was Curator of Digital Publics Melbourne and Sydney, and she co-facilitated Independent Convergence in 2016 and 2017. In 2017 Esther also curated the Sunday Salons with Dr Ben Eltham and Tasneem Chopra.
Creating and sustaining the conditions for independent creative practice is Esther’s professional focus, with past leadership roles spanning craft and design, literature, visual arts, publishing and broadcasting. Esther has held CEO-level positions with several key arts organisations including Melbourne Fringe, Craft Victoria, SYN Media, the Emerging Writers’ Festival and Express Media, and most recently Regional Arts Victoria. She has served on many boards, juries and policy advisories. As an arts leader she specialises in creating new artistic frameworks for established companies that generate new thinking and new work. Esther was on the Programming Advisory Committee for the 2013-2017 Melbourne Writers’ Festivals, the 2012-2016 Musica Viva international programming advisory, and the Artistic Advisory Panel for Arts & Edges 2014 (Kalgoorlie-Boulder) and Artlands 2016 (Dubbo). At Arts & Edges, Esther was the Ambassador for the counter-program of artistic interventions, the Special Agents. Across 2014-2015, Esther developed her creative approach to public space and public voice with the support of the Australia Council Artistic Leadership fund. In 2015 Esther was a member of the Victorian Government Creative Industries Strategy Expert Reference Group.
Esther’s work has been published widely in Australia and overseas, most recently in The Age, Griffith Review, Meanjin, Overland, Daily Review, Eureka Street, Dancehouse Diary, un Magazine, The Emerging Writer, The Australian, Artichoke, Arts Hub, Houses and RealTime Arts, and she is the former arts policy columnist for Meanjin. Esther is one of the nation’s most sought-after commentators on arts and culture. She has been profiled in The Age, The Leader, Melbourne News, CB Online, Arts Hub, The Courier and Neos Kosmos. Her writing has been translated into German, Greek and Ukrainian. Experimentation is her writerly love: in 2016, she exhibited her INDEX-SYSTEM project at Mailbox Arts Space, and in 2017, she was a keynote speaker and site-specific workshop presenter at Performing, Writing in New Zealand.
High-level sector development is core to Esther’s ethos: she actively fosters industry-wide networks, and is regularly invited to facilitate or consult on strategic planning and programming. Esther has been an expert peer assessor for the Australia Council, Catalyst, Creative Victoria and the City of Melbourne. She has judged the Georges Mora Fellowship, the Urban Realities Docklands 72hr Design Challenge, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects’ Street Works international design competition, the NEMBC Awards, the Gertrude St Projection Festival and the Science Week Art Prize. In 2013, Esther was a finalist in the Melbourne Awards for Contribution to Profile by an Individual, nominated by regional Victorian artist and curator, Tamara Marwood. In 2017, Esther accepted the Victoria Day Award for the Arts in recognition of Regional Arts Victoria’s work in inspiring the arts across the state. In 2018, Esther was named one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review. In 2019, Esther co-facilitated Australian Cultural Policy: The Next Decade, a partnership between Monash University’s Masters of Cultural & Creative Leadership and NAVA.
Across all such involvements is an abiding interest in the spatial, cultural and political configurations that are responsible for the emergence of the new.
IMAGE: Grandstanding at MPavilion 2017.