Creative Partnerships Australia has announced the recipients of its 2020 Creative Partnerships Awards, with Adelaide Festival Co-Artistic Directors Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield receiving the Arts Leadership Award.

Neil Armfield Rachel HealyNeil Armfield and Rachel Healy are the winners of the Arts Leadership Award. Photo © Shane Reid

“This year’s winners are all committed to being more than financial contributors,” Creative Partnerships Australia CEO Fiona Menzies says. “Each expresses a process of really getting to know the organisations they support, in order to fully understand what they need.  They provide valued advice, as well as advocating for them and championing them.”

The Emerging Philanthropist Award goes to Alexandra Burt, who is West Australian Ballet’s Patron of Giving, as well as contributing to the West Australian Opera, West Australian Symphony Orchestra and the Venice Biennale, amongst other organisations.

CEO and Managing Director of Telstra Andy Penn receives the Business Leadership Award.

Maureen Wheeler and Tony Wheeler – who were instrumental in supporting Opera Australia bring The Ring Cycle to Melbourne, as well as supporting Melbourne Theatre Company, Melbourne Festival, Malthouse Theatre and Melbourne Fringe, and creating the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne – have been honoured with the Philanthropy Leadership Award.

The Arts Visionary Award was awarded jointly this year, to S Baillieu Myer and Sarah Myer – who have supported the Myer Music Bowl, Arts Centre Melbourne, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Grafton Regional Gallery, the Australian Tapestry Workshop, McClelland Sculpture Park and many other cultural institutions – and Lady Primrose Potter, a founding member of the Bell Shakespeare Company, Patron in Chief of the Melbourne Opera and Director of the Museum Potter Museum of Art, who has also been President Annual Giving Program with the Australian Ballet, which has named its headquarters after her.

“Donors and businesses who support the arts understand that there’s a benefit to the community at large of having a vibrant arts and cultural sector in Australia,” Menzies says. “This has never been more stark than during the coronavirus pandemic, when so many Australians turned to the arts for comfort, meaning and entertainment, be it music, screen, books, crafts and so on. Australians love both consuming and participating in arts and cultural activities.”

Armfield said receiving the Arts Leadership Award felt “sweet and unexpected”.

“Basically we’re trying to produce an Adelaide Festival that is as memorable and meaningful to audiences and artists as the great festivals that I travelled to Adelaide to experience in the early 80s,” he says. “There’s a lot of energy gathering behind us as people sense that something is happening here.”

Private giving and philanthropy is “hugely important” to the Festival’s success, he says. “There are key events that we couldn’t consider without philanthropic support as they would absorb too much of the programming budget. The festival opera, for instance, has been a signature event from our first festival in 2017. It’s what makes many audiences travel here in the first place. We can only produce it because of the growing support of our Opera Donor Circle.”

Armfield also explains that business partnerships have always been fundamental to the Festival. “The Adelaide Festival began in 1960 because a group of businessmen made it happen. There was no government support for the first decade of the festival’s history,” he says. “That said there is a shift in recent years which has seen a growth in private philanthropy over sponsorship. But we take pride in our business partnerships and find that businesses are proud of their association with us.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everything about the Festival. “But the most interesting effect has been a sense of greater care, of appreciating what we have because we realise how fragile it is and indeed how vulnerable we all are,” he says. “There is a love of the arts and of the Festival and individuals and businesses are going out of their way to express their support because they want it to happen.”

Menzies says that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the arts, donors and businesses even closer together. “Given that the arts were completely shutdown and are only just emerging now, strong relationships with donors and business partners have become stronger,” she says. “The potential of the absence of the arts made everyone realise that they must be supported through this tough time, so that they are there when we emerge to our new normality.”

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