10/09/2008 - 22:00

Culture corner -Sonja Basic General manager of Propelarts

10/09/2008 - 22:00


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WABN: Describe a day at work.WABN: Describe a day at work. SB: "My day starts at 8.30 with clearing the email trail, continues with writing reports, budgets or funding applications, meeting with young artists, arts workers or government/corporate heads a

Sonja Basic

WABN: Describe a day at work.

SB: "My day starts at 8.30 with clearing the email trail, continues with writing reports, budgets or funding applications, meeting with young artists, arts workers or government/corporate heads and ends with a few visioning sessions for our 2009 program.

"However, no two days are the same in a small organisation like ours, which provides information skills development, support and basically advocacy for youth artists in Western Australia."

WABN: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone to motivate a team?

SB: "Always involve them in the bigger picture and outcome of your projects. On a more superficial level, have an awesome playlist in the office and always have lollies on hand to provide energy."

WABN: What has been the most challenging event in your career?

SB: "This position. Coming from a research and projects background into a management position has been a steep learning curve, but a rewarding one.

"I had to deal with two resignations and a devolved funding program in the first week of the job followed by board changes - so yes, I have been thrown in the deep end. The reward has been getting the organisation back on track through securing new funding, having committed and motivated board and staff, driving innovative projects and, at the moment, creating a sustainable vision to lead youth arts. What have I learned from this? It pays to have persistence and a clear head."

WABN: What's best measurement of your performance, and can you name a highlight in your career?

SB: "I've always volunteered in the youth arts sector. Coming to Propelarts was great but it also a very different position than what I was used to; every day is a challenge in my job. Highlights include organising a national youth week showcase in April this year (outdoors in the worst weather imaginable). We had to compile a second contingency plan within half an hour when our first one (a marquee) was flooded. The show went on inside, a visual arts exhibition, and achieved a fantastic response and turnout - the minister launching the event in the middle of a 1950s-style kitchen instillation was memorable."

WABN: How do you deal with egos in your workplace?

SB: "Ego can be healthy in the arts when channelled in the right way - such as publicity. Plan B is to practice patience, humour and provide perspective to whoever can't fit their head through the door."

WABN: What frustrates you the most about your sector and what would you do to change it?

SB: "It is repeated often in the arts since it is so true - lack of funding, especially for small organisations that get overlooked for the big arts companies. How are we to grow if we are not nurtured and supported by the wider community?

"The ongoing challenge for us is to turn leaders' heads to the great work we do in youth arts - from shining a spotlight on social justice issues through art with our Home Is Where the Heart Is exhibition with YACWA, to giving young artists paid opportunities in the sector through our projects and validating art as a career - especially when young people are in that transitional period after school.

"Organisations such as Artsupport and AbaF assist in helping pave the way for future funding avenues. The hard part is communicating to corporates who usually associate arts with specific production outcomes (shows, concerts, etc) that money needs to be invested in arts development programs.

"If I could change the way the sector is funded I would encourage big vision for the future of youth arts - investing serious money to create an iconic youth arts centre in the inner city, and providing a central space for young artists, arts organisations and collectives to create, collaborate, rehearse and develop their art forms."

WABN: Which personality has inspired you the most throughout your career?

SB: "Jessica Machin [Country Arts WA CEO and formerly head of Carclew Youth Arts in SA] is a great leader in the youth arts field; she really dares to dream big when it is so easy to get caught up in the 'who wants a piece of the arts pie' struggle; she is the one baking another.

"My former boss, Kevin Clements, from the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, is a lovely man who demonstrates that a softer leadership approach - thoughtful, fun and horizontal (as opposed to hierarchical) - can be very effective."

WABN: Who has influenced you personally?

SB: "My mother, naturally, for her tenacity, humour and schtick."

WABN: What were you doing before your current position?

SB: "I worked in federal government, education and journalism, volunteering in the youth sector. In another life I taught English abroad, edited travel guidebooks, saved sea turtles and worked for a war crimes tribunal."

WABN: What is your education background?

SB: "Dual degree in bachelor of arts (international relations)/bachelor of journalism (honours) at the University of Queensland."



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