08/12/2020 - 11:00

New era for arts philanthropy

08/12/2020 - 11:00

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WA arts organisations are engaging young professionals in philanthropy.

Minali Gamage (left) and Kate Parker are members of Next Collective.

The future of philanthropy is stepping forward, as arts organisations cultivate a cohort of young professionals in Western Australia.

In recent years, arts organisations including the Art Gallery of WA have developed giving programs for younger people.

AGWA foundation manager Teresa Fantoni said Next Collective was established in 2018 because the gallery felt it needed to engage more with people in the 20-to-40 years age group.

“The idea is we are fostering philanthropy and giving early on in their careers … hoping they will develop a long relationship with the gallery foundation over the years,” Ms Fantoni told Business News.

Next Collective members donate a minimum of $700 a year and vote how the total should be spent at an annual ‘pitch night’ event.

Earlier this month, the group announced it had raised nearly $15,000 and had chosen to fund a First Nations artist to create the first of a number of murals to be painted in the AGWA foyer.

Last year, Next Collective raised a similar amount for a series of artist-led workshops for adults and children.

Donations to the group are set to increase in 2020-21, after Minderoo Foundation recently announced it would match Next Collective members’ donations until the next pitch night, in November 2021.

Minderoo arts and culture portfolio director Ella McNeill said the foundation hoped the incentive would encourage more people to commit to supporting Next Collective.

“We need to let more people know that donating to arts organisations is a wonderful thing to do for your community, hugely stimulating and rewarding and can be a lot of fun,” Ms McNeill told Business News.

Arts and culture associate at urban development firm Element, Kate Parker, signed up as the first of the 22 current members of Next Collective.

“It’s a good way to show younger people that philanthropy in the arts is accessible, it’s not this thing only for the elite, everyone can do it,” Ms Parker said.

While she works closely with the arts sector, Ms Parker said knowledge of art was not a prerequisite for joining the group, with members coming from a diverse range of fields including teaching and engineering.

“You don’t have to know anything about the arts; you are not expected to come in there and be able to talk about a painting on the wall or a sculpture,” Ms Parker told Business News.

“Everyone is there to learn, everyone is there because they are interested and passionate, not because they are knowledgeable, which makes for really interesting discussions.”

Some Next Collective members, including Ms Parker, are also part of the AGWA Foundation.

“The Next Collective is definitely a good gateway to that group,” she said.

“It does make you realise that the jump isn’t that much, it’s not substantial.”

Fortescue Metals Group risk and assurance manager Minali Gamage said she joined Next Collective because the group gave her the opportunity to talk about art with like-minded people, while providing access to the gallery.

“You do get a lot more one-on-one and smaller group interaction with people like Colin Walker and Ian Strange, as well as some of the curatorial staff, some of the arts education staff, and you get to see much more behind the scenes of how the art gallery actually works,” Ms Gamage said.

“When Ian started, he gave us his vision as artistic director for the gallery and took us through some concepts and the types of exhibitions and his ethos or philosophy around art and the gallery and the role it plays in the community, especially to younger people, and that sustainability of the art.”

In 2019, West Australian Ballet started a similar program, Barre Collective.

Philanthropy manager Taui Pinker said the program was established in 2019 after he saw an opportunity to engage young people who were passionate about ballet.

“We saw a need [to develop] philanthropic spirit in young people,” Mr Pinker told Business News.

WA Ballet decided on a minimum membership fee of $250 to ensure the program was accessible, he said.

The group has 15 members who vote on where their funds are spent each year.

West Australian Opera established its Young Leaders Circle in 2018, which has grown to have 25 members and has an annual membership fee of $500.

While the program was paused this year because of COVID-19, it will resume in 2021.

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