15/12/2015 - 05:32

Georgiou struts its arts stuff

15/12/2015 - 05:32

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Construction contractor Georgiou Group has encouraged Perth corporations to reject what it calls ‘tokenistic connections’ with the arts community.

Georgiou struts its arts stuff
CONNECTED: Jon Smeulders (left) says Georgiou has developed a strong relationship with Strut Dance, led by director Paul Selwyn Norton. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Construction contractor Georgiou Group has encouraged Perth corporations to reject what it calls ‘tokenistic connections’ with the arts community.

Georgiou Developments executive director Jon Smeulders told Business News the corporate sector needed to develop genuine partnerships that benefited both parties, rather than engage in feel-good marketing opportunities.

Mr Smeulders, whose wife is a principal artist for the West Australian Ballet, said he was personally passionate about supporting the arts.

He said Georgiou had struck up partnerships with Aboriginal performing arts group Yirri Yaakin Theatre Company several years ago, and more recently with Perth-based national choreographic development Strut Dance, because of strong shared cultural alignments.

“Rather than just sponsor an arts organisation and say ‘doesn’t that feel good’, I particularly liked the synergies between Strut and Georgiou,” Mr Smeulders said.

“Strut is a choreographic development organisation. The part of Georgiou I head up is a development business, it’s about creativity, it’s about innovation, and all of those messages align very firmly with what Strut does.”

Strut Dance director Paul Selwyn Norton said both Strut and Georgiou were committed to creating models of excellence their staff could aspire to.

He said Strut, located on King Street, hoped the Kings Square development (when opened) would help corporates in the city connect better with artistically aligned groups in Northbridge.

Mr Smeulders said the partnership with Yirri Yaakin, including its NAIDOC Week sponsorship, had developed in part because of Georgiou’s reconciliation action plan.

Mr Smeulders said people might not immediately appreciate the connections between a construction firm and an Aboriginal theatre group or choreographic institute, but corporates needed to look deeper to find similarities.

“It’s not immediately obvious to everybody ... and I guess that’s where it’s incumbent on us as a corporate and also Strut as an arts organisation to help people join those dots,” he said.

And say why do we have a relationship? Are we just writing a modest cheque and feeling good about it or are we actually seeing that we have a cultural alignment in what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to create.”

Mr Smeulders said recognising and developing cultural alignments was good for both organisations as well as their respective clients and patrons, and staff members.

He encouraged corporates to find arts groups to connect with by liaising with Creative Partnerships Australia and the Chamber of Arts and Culture WA.

“I think that’s always a good starting point rather than a corporate sitting down in January and flipping through the festival program,” Mr Smeulders said.

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