As the arts were changing with COVID, so too were many of those who gave to the arts. This year’s winners of the Creative Partnerships Australia (CPA) Awards celebrate the philanthropists who created hope in the crisis.
‘The recipients of this year’s awards all embody a genuine love of the arts and culture, and a desire for them to be ambitious and to be shared as widely as possible,’ CPA CEO Fiona Menzies told ArtsHub.
This year’s Emerging Philanthropy Leadership Award is a prime example of that ambition. When this year’s winners, Nick and Sophie Dunstone returned to their hometown of Adelaide, they saw a need to invest in the city’s arts infrastructure. They founded their Light Cultural Foundation in 2020 in a heritage building in Adelaide’s West End, creating a venue like no other in the city.
Opening The Lab this year created a new space for artists. Nick Dunstone described it as ‘a performance space that is surrounded 360 degrees by wall-to-ceiling LED screens, which are incredibly lifelike, enabling you to transport audiences and artists anywhere’.
The timing was perfect for a COVID pivot but it was also about offering an enhanced digital offering for the performing arts.
‘The easiest example is if you were a First Nations musician and you want to play on Country, you’re able to create that very visceral, real sensation of performing on Country, not just with the digital set behind the artists but actually with digital sets that are enveloping the entirety. So you actually feel like you’re in that space that’s relevant to that performance and right there,’ Dunstone explained.
Dunstone is also unique in his approach to philanthropy as he challenges more traditional approaches, not investing in existing institutions but setting up his own foundation which embraces risk and innovation.
‘The key message is that if people continue to devote capital to the same types of artistic expression, then we will not truly embrace creativity. And so I would love to encourage others to continue exploring as many different ways of expressing art [as possible], and making sure that the capital that’s invested is made available to emerging creatives,’ he said.
In fact, Dunstone believes philanthropy should be a force to renew the arts by looking at where it can direct funding.
‘Revolution and reinvention requires a disproportionate emphasis and focus on emerging creativity, as opposed to existing art forms.’
Menzies concurred that the Dunstone’s project is about bringing an entrepreneurial model into the arts.
‘It’s very much based on that principle that the best gift you can give an artist is time and space, and that’s what I think they’re really trying to provide – a place where people can come and try new things and experiment with their art,’ she said.
That space is a rare launchpad in the arts which enables creative growth. ‘I love that sort of risk-taking element of it. That it’s not just about putting on the perfect concept. It’s actually about providing a place where experimentation can occur,’ Menzies said.