Monday, March 19, 2012

Twenty influential people in Australian arts and culture

Who really runs Australia? 

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton – artistic directors, Sydney Theatre Company
Some luvvies may be churlish about their high profile, but there's no doubt Blanchett and playwright husband Upton have brought the glitz to the STC. They've also made the company profitable and won critical acclaim taking home-grown shows to the US, meaning that when their reign ends at the end of next year they'll have well and truly left their mark.
Elizabeth-Anne Macgregor – director, Museum of Contemporary Art
Macgregor runs Sydney's MCA: a gallery which isn't even the biggest in its own city, meaning her influence is hard to judge on a national scale. Still, the Scotland-born redhead has her supporters who laud her for being approachable and generous with her support. A massive $53 million renovation opening this month enhances her claim as the most influential contemporary art figure.
Geoffrey Rush – actor
As one of the country's most accomplished actors, Rush already had plenty of cred. Now he's Australian of the Year and president of the newly-created Australia Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. He's also a big supporter of the local stage community, flying home regularly to attend – or even star in – the odd production.
Julianne Schultz – founding editor, Griffith Review (photo left)
Schultz may not have the key power title of others, but her presence and influence across the arts and culture sphere is undoubted. As well as being an ABC director, she's also had a long-term say over government arts policy having been at Kevin Rudd's 20/20 summit and now chairing the reference group for the federal government's upcoming National Cultural Policy review.
Kathy Keele – CEO, Australia Council
Government funding is perhaps the biggest issue facing artists and art bodies around the country. And at the top of the money tree is the Australia Council, run by Portland native Keele. It's a tough gig, with plenty of critics, mainly because everyone always wants a bigger slice of the pie.
Louise Adler – CEO, Melbourne University Press
If you want to publish serious non-fiction, you could do worse than go to MUP. Run by the notoriously energetic Adler (she emails staff at 4am), the independent publishing house has become a specialist in political memoir: Mark Latham, Tony Abbott and Peter Costello have all put their words out with MUP.
Lyndon Terracini – artistic director, Opera Australia
No arts organisation gets as much government funding as Opera Australia, something that infuriates those who see it as lacking a connection to the wider community. And the man holding the chequebook is operatic baritone Terracini, a former Brisbane Festival chief, whose vision includes an ambitious outdoor staging of La Traviata on the waters of Sydney Harbour.
Michael Heyward – publisher, Text Publishing (photo right)
Another of the key indie publishers, Text has some of country's most prominent authors on its books including Shane Maloney, Kate Holden and Tim Flannery. Heyward, like Adler, has also played a key role in cheerleading support for the parallel importation laws which have benefited local publishers.
Simon Crean – arts minister
It's an important year for government support of the arts, with the wide-ranging National Cultural Policy review slated for release later in 2012. It means Crean has more power than his predecessors to make a difference, even if those on the inside say the final product may not be the game changer everyone wants.
Tony Ellwood – director, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art
Ellwood has helped transform Brisbane's reputation as a philistine wasteland, dragging 1.8 million visitors through the doors of the Queensland Art Gallery and GoMA in 2010 (the highest in the country). It's an achievement that will see the charismatic Melbourne boy head home to take on one of the biggest jobs in the business: director of the National Gallery of Victoria.
What's this list all about? Heres our definition of power in arts and culture: The arts have disproportionate influence on society when compared to the size of their patronage. That's as it has been for centuries, partly because the arts are an important public platform for wealthy Medicis, partly because powerful people like to be judged by their artistic endeavors, partly because most arts power-wielders are very articulate, persuasive and well-connected, and partly because ideas flow in the culture sector and ideas attracts attention.
Read the full list at The Power Index.

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