Meet Steven Richardson, our State Manager in Victoria and Tasmania
We take five to chat shop, life and circus with Steven Richardson.
As a State Manager, what is your key role?
Through Creative Partnership’s Coaching and mentoring program, my role is to assist artists and arts companies with their non-government fundraising. I work almost on a case management basis, starting with a diagnosis of where the organisation is at in relation to their fundraising capacity, and use that as a starting point. From there, we can explore options and tactics for fundraising. Usually this involves an examination of almost all aspects of the organisation, as fundraising capacity is linked to most other areas of the organisation operations.
Can you give us a bit of background on your pre-Creative Partnerships life and some career highlights?
All of my working life has been spent in some aspect of the arts, which began with a Fine Arts degree majoring in printmaking. My work pre-Creative Partnerships has included a stint as a roustabout with Circus Oz and as Artistic Associate of Melbourne Festival.
I founded and established Black Arm Band (Australia’s national company dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contemporary music) and Dance Massive (the national contemporary dance platform); two national initiatives which remain relevant and thriving today. Throughout my working life I have always had the responsibility to raise money for any ideas that I wanted to realise, so this has given me an excellent grounding for my current role.
Some career highlights include: establishing Black Arm Band over ten years; getting six dancing ‘angels’ living and performing on the Arts Centre spire for ten days during Next Wave Festival in 2002 (in partnership with Y Space, a company based out near Horsham); and talking Rickie Lee Jones out of walking away from her performance at the 2011 Melbourne Festival (that was a close one!).
Can you describe a typical day in your life as State Manager?
As I work across Victoria and Tasmania I am privileged to come into contact with some amazing artists. It is a real pleasure hearing about some amazing and ambitious work. And hearing the challenges of how to diversify income streams and raise funds to bring these ideas to life is very rewarding and often requires lateral thinking alongside conventional approaches.
What do you think are the key opportunities and challenges that are facing arts organisations in your State?
I think there are a few consistent things I see across many organisations that have the potential to assist to create sustainability for arts organisations, such as:
- Access to ticketing or booking data is one area where I think there needs to be some rethinking as many organisations don’t have access to their engaged constituents via ticketing data.
- The possibility of partnering and creating new alliances and sharing resources is another area where I think we can learn from other sectors where natural and mutually beneficial strategic alliances create greater opportunities all round.
- And finally the changing nature of audiences and how they expect to engage in the arts is a big issue not only here in Australia but internationally.
Much of the international research suggests that the passive consumption of arts experiences is not necessarily going to be the way of the future. People want to do it, see it, socialise around it and talk about the arts experience.
I think what we are seeing is a convergence of the so-called democratisation of culture and the need for people to come together in a temporary community to have a person-to-person experience. These are challenges to many of the bricks and mortar based arts organisations.
These trends provide great challenges for our arts organisations, but also great opportunities to deepen and widen engagement, which in turn, of course, assists with fundraising.
I really believe that the companies that are bold and truly embrace all these challenges will be the ones who create a new viable future. We can already see it now, arts organisations that are nimble, flexible and open to change, while still producing excellent artistic work and meaningful outcomes are the ones that are thriving. We have to keep innovating, trying new things.
What is the greatest outcome that you have had from delivering this program and what are you most proud of?
Circus Oz recently had a brilliant live fundraising event. It was very special because it played to the organisation’s strengths; it was theatrical and fun and raised close to $100,000 in one night. It was great to have a small role in that journey as it was the Circus’s first efforts in that area and close to my heart because one of my first professional jobs out of art school was with Circus Oz. I learnt so much from that group during my time there.
It’s often forgotten that we have an abundance of ingenuity – particularly resourcefulness, tenacity and creativity – all essential in both the creation of artistic work and in fundraising. It was really exciting to be able to contribute to the evening so many years later and to give back in some way.
From your experience, what are three key points that lead to a successful partnership with a corporate sponsor?
- Truly mutually beneficial outcomes
- An alignment in values
What is the best part of your job? And the worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is hearing about and assisting to realise great knee buckling arts projects. I am often humbled by the audacious daring of artists and arts projects. Assisting to turn the improbable, the unlikely and the inspiring into reality is a privilege beyond words. I love it!
The worst part of my job is not being able to hand over a big bag of cash for projects or to companies that are doing amazing work! Seriously though it isn’t what Creative Partnerships does. Our work is to assist to build capacity in the sector and to help organisations build towards sustainability over a long period of time. We are slow release protein rather than a quick sugar hit, in a dietary sense!