Valuing Partnerships

If there is one thing I bank on in making a project successful - it is having the right band of people around me that I can count on. In the arts, partnerships make the world go around whether it is in business, in organisations or community arts.

There is not one of us, particularly those of us who are sole traders in this industry, that can deliver what we want to achieve on our own. The recent Design CQ exhibition tour launch is an example of exactly that.

Images L-R: Opening night in Bundaberg - the Artists Megan Spencer, Shelley Pisani, Karen M Andersen, Sarah Larsen, Sam Ephraims, Debbie Bennett, Kellie McHugh, Judith Hopwood and Andrea Treloar | the team from MAKI Space and MAKI Print Emerson Ysayama, Bev Avis, Leonora Lumby, Jenni Miners, Leroy Perry and Sue Cronin | the Bundaberg Regional Galleries Team Rachel Weldon, Rebecca McDuff and Toni Schuch

Just look at all those faces in the photos - and that's just the tip of the iceberg. 31 artists are involved in the exhibition itself, contributing their work to an 8 month long tour. The majority of these artists have invested time and resources in creating new work to be in the exhibition.

Sitting behind that was the two-year project that led to the exhibition in the first place - CQ Shopfront. 17 project partners were involved in funding, supporting and resourcing a project that built the business and product development capacity of 527 project participants across Central Queensland.

Image: The project partners of CQ Shopfront delivered by The Ideas Distillery and Makers' Shopfront

Bundaberg Regional Galleries have been invaluable in making the project happen by coming onboard as the Tour Manager. A sole trader like me can't get insurance to travel an exhibition but local government can. They also supported the graphic design of the exhibition and will be providing curatorial support for the tour to Mackay and Brisbane. I am so grateful to Rebecca McDuff for her vision in driving this partnership.

Then there is the wonderful team at Community Lifestyle Support Ability Enterprises - MAKI Space and MAKI Print. This wonderful disability service organisation has these two social enterprises that have the capacity to design and produce the wonderful display furniture in the exhibition, the signage and jewellery displays. How lucky are we to have organisations like this around to be able to deliver these tailor-made solutions.

Not to forget the funding bodies that have supported the project. Yes we all know it is a time investment but funding writing is a skill well worth fostering. This project has been supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland's Touring Queensland Fund. It has also been supported by the Regional Arts Development Fund, a partnership between the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and the Bundaberg Regional Council and Mackay Regional Council. Both Councils have also provided in-kind support. When the exhibition is in Brisbane, we will be receiving in-kind support from Griffith University.

There are so many people, businesses and organisations in the back story of this exhibition that it would take me a day to write up the report! I am happy to shout to the rooftops about these wonderful people.

Why am I telling you all of this, other than to give them all a huge shout out? It is because networking and nurturing of relationships are the cornerstone of any arts practice. You just never know what opportunities can arise from a single conversation with the right person. I am fortunate to have had this mindset for the 27 years of my arts career and the investment of time in developing and maintaining relationships in this industry has been well rewarded with project outcomes, a sustainable independent career and ongoing opportunities that are continually unveiling.

Not all partnerships work out either. At the end, take a step back and analyse why. Take stock of where it could improve next time or if that partnership is worth fostering in the future.

My tips for you:
  • Take time to research who the right partners are. What's in it for them? What's in it for you? Do you match ethically and morally?

  • Once you have them, make sure you communicate well with your partners and keep them on board. Find the right driver within that organisation or business that is invested in what you have to offer.

  • Once the project is done, provide them with feedback that they can use within their organisations or businesses for promotion, reporting or business building.

  • Invite them to be part of the journey!

  • Stay in touch and maintain a connection.

Productive partnerships are gold and worth the investment.

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