Aug 1, 2019 | ArtSpeak, News

I have been a corporate leader for several decades and am still a parent (no “have been” here!) of four children and one grandchild. I have been travelling with the arts all my adult life. I have been associated with Metro Arts for 30 years, where I have witnessed the emergence of countless artists in all disciplines, including the often-unrecognised creatives in the background, the technical team, the stage managers, the producers, the designers etc.

I have come to the conclusion that when we support young artists, we are also supporting ourselves:  sustaining our lifeblood, enhancing our conversations and enriching our learning within relationships. It goes to the very core of our wellness as individuals within our society.

I could go on and on making observations and telling stories of the immense power of the arts, of encouraging individuals to grow their stories through multi-modal artforms, and how these narratives provoke and inspire not only their audience but the storytellers themselves. Ah the ricochet effect of the arts.

I will confine myself to two observations.

  1. LET ME DISPEL A MYTH, one that I hear from so many parents:

Hey, why don’t you get a real job!

Of course, this means a well-paying job.

My message to parents is that our children will know when it may be time, or not, to focus on a well-paying job. Let them explore their passion. My offer is that in doing so, should they later decide to enter the “corporate” life or other structured workplaces, they will most likely come armed with a variety of highly developed skills learned experientially as independent artists, such as project management, team building, collaboration, communication, focus, work ethic, a developed emotional intelligence, leadership, time management, budgeting, developing and implementing a vision, mission, strategy, etc.

I have been astonished by observing these highly developed skills in so many artists. Yet because this is not observed, understood or recognised by the corporate sector, and often not by parents (I have had to remind myself of this as a parent), these skills are driven underground into the artists’ ‘unknown’, often fuelling a mood “I am not good enough” or “I know nothing about business”.

  1. THE RICOCHET EFFECT: let me tell a personal story.

I well remember the profound effect on me in my early 20s of the plays Sizwe Banzi Is Dead and The Island (by Athol Fugard in collaboration with John Kani and Winston Ntshona), projecting deep within me the effects of Apartheid. That evening I wrote in my diary about “the loneliness of suffering and victimisation of the other”. From that point on I became a regular theatre goer, always keen to grow my understanding. This and other plays (most recently Meyne Wyatt’s City of Gold at QT), set me on what I call my empathy revolution (borrowed from Roman Krznaric’s book), making me more aware, more compassionate and in turn a better parent, partner and leader. Just one example of the ricochet effect of theatre. I could mention many other examples fed not only by theatre, but also visual art, including Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles at the NGA, where I sit for an extended time, reflecting and meditating on life, each time I visit Canberra, leaving refreshed.  

CALL TO ACTION: supporting young/emerging artists is an enormous and important investment in our own future, not just theirs. Through my own stories and observations, my offer is that

  • Art heals
  • Art strengthens
  • Art inspires
  • Art changes us

Bill Ash
August 2019


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