Many of the best cultural organisations and art centres worldwide are very cognisant of their responsibility to diversity and accessibility. With Australia being one of the most multicultural communities on the planet, Douglas Gautier, CEO and Artistic Director of Adelaide Festival Centre knows only too well where arts and culture flourish generally, so does harmony and tolerance and a better understanding of walking in somebody else’s shoes. In this #Global20 interview our Vice President of Australia, Lincoln Size, talks to Douglas about how philanthropy has contributed to the arts and culture in Australia, examines the role of corporates in arts philanthropy and asks what advice he would give to philanthropists who may be wondering how to have the greatest impact with their support of the arts.

Lincoln Size 0:00

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Douglas Gautier AM, who is the CEO and artistic director of the Adelaide Festival Centre. Welcome Douglas, thank you very much for joining us for this Global 20 interview. If you could just start by telling us a little bit about yourself and the great work that you’re doing at the Adelaide Festival Centre.

Douglas Gautier 0:19

Well, thanks Lincoln and thank you for the opportunity of speaking with you today. It’s much appreciated, and particularly for an organisation that does such great global work in this field.

Look, I’m currently the CEO and Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival Centre, which is the major Performing Arts Centre for South Australia’s capital city Art Centre. There’s one in each capital city in Australia. I came to this job in 2006, after being the director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and after spending nearly 30 years in Asia, long time in the private sector with satellite television, but also running a music and arts channel for the government and at one stage, being the Chief Operating Officer for the Hong Kong Tourist Board, immediately after 1997.

Anyway, coming down here in 2006, to take over this centre, my brief was really to reconnect it, internationally, and to get it out of debt. It was close to $30 million in debt. And it’s a great centre, it was the first capital city Art Centre in this country, with a lot riding on reputation for this city, which regards itself as the festival capital of our country. Pretty much like Edinburgh is to United Kingdom. So there was a lot of work to do in terms of re-establishing, or establishing, festivals year round. I’ll give you a bit more about that later on. And to get it out of debt. Clearly that was very important. And thirdly, to reconnect it internationally, but particularly with a focus on Asia. And Asia is where I have those connections and contacts and I still share the Asia Pacific Centres Association, which has some 60 or 70 centres across Asia Pacific and a whole bunch of business associates, suppliers, artists, agents, etc. Even philanthropist summit that. So that’s really what I do.

Lincoln Size 2:29

Well, thank you very much, you are eminently qualified to talk today about the arts, particularly how the arts contribute to society. And also we’ll touch on some of the other commonalities or differences between what you’ve seen in the artistic field in Asia and Australia, and also that philanthropic side, from Asia and Australia. But if I could start first, Douglas, by asking you to outline the role that arts play in building healthier societies. Obviously, during COVID, we had challenges and all of that, but how have the arts, the sector, the leadership, the boards, helped with people reconnecting post-lockdown?

Douglas Gautier 3:12

Well, I think as we all come out of our homes, and I play a little bit of online and into the real world, public organisations, which bring people together are important, whether it be universities or shopping malls or public spaces, and particularly arts centres, and museums and galleries, that sort of thing. And so I think it is part and parcel of that rebuilding of sense of community and well being. So I think arts and culture has a very important part to play in that.

But I would say in a broader platform, if you like, and this is a personal opinion, but I know a lot of other people share the view, and that is where arts and culture flourish generally, so does harmony and tolerance and better understanding and feel for walking in somebody else’s shoes. And here in Australia, we are probably one of the most multicultural communities on the planet. And over the last 20 or 30 years we really strongly reexamined the role of First Nations culture as part of our community, a very important part of our community. So in building strong civic society, which is open and accessible, to that wide diversity of cultural backgrounds and views, then I think cultural organisations, like ours, have a special responsibility and have a special task to make those multicultural platforms possible. And that interaction, possible diversity and accessibility.

So that’s how I think we can contribute. And I think more and more, if you look at the best cultural organisations worldwide and art centres worldwide, they’re very cognisant of that responsibility and they work very hard to make sure that they contribute in that way.

Lincoln Size 5:37

So that’s excellent. I mean, as you said, the arts are transformative in creating those harmonious, connected, healthier, happier societies. How has philanthropy contributed to that? How does philanthropy support the arts in achieving that?

Douglas Gautier 5:57

Well, you know, to a more or less degree, if you go right around the world, there are some places where arts and culture are completely government funded, and places where they’re not. In some places like the States, where of course there is government involvement, but a lot of it has to do with commercial possibilities, plus very heavy tradition of giving. But I’ll give you a heretic, Australian mix model. But I’ll give you an example. About two or three years ago, we redeveloped an old Edwardian theatre, which is part of our infrastructure portfolio. And it’s a reasonably sized theatre. It’s about 1500 seats, and we completely redeveloped it. But government set us a target for a contribution from our organisation, which was around about $6 million, which for a town, our size is quite a significant amount.

And what was interesting is that, to raise that $6 million, (and ultimately, it was seven), there were over 5000 donors. So some people gave $5 and one donor gave over a million. But it didn’t matter because within the community over 5000, people said “yes, I want to be part of this and it’s important to me”. And in a way that has knit those donors in with our organisation and the ambition for that theatre, which is a good one, in terms of saying, let’s make something which is historic, the last standing of its chain in Australia. Let’s make it something that’s relevant to our audiences of the 21st century and that artists would also want to work in it. And importantly, that theatre is in a fairly multicultural area in our city. It’s Chinatown, but it’s also a place where foreign students congregate. So it ticks a lot of boxes in that regard. But mainly, I think, what it has done, it has brought a community together in something that they collectively can own, and they feel that it is something that will make our community better.

Lincoln Size 8:36

And have you seen a change in the philanthropic support to the arts, because of that? I mean, that was a major capital campaign that was undertaken. Has that cannibalised anything in terms of regular giving to the arts?

Douglas Gautier 8:51

I don’t think so. I think it’s growing the pie. Certainly, us and the sorts of people that we saw come into it, other than the really big donors, were new people. And so our challenge has been to keep that relatively large donor base on board and convert them from an infrastructure project, which is very tangible, cement and bricks and all of that. Well, more than that, but you know what I mean. But to then move them across to say, we’ve done that but together would you now like to support emerging artists? Or First Nations? Or connections with Asia? We have an Artistic Directors Fund. We run five festivals, one that’s aimed at Asian connections, Guitar Festival, Cabaret Festival, Kids Festival, and First Nations First. And so most of those donors now have gone across to supporting one of those festivals. It’s called the Artistic Directors Fund. In other words, once they actually commit to it, then you can use the proceeds accordingly.

Lincoln Size 10:08

That’s very interesting, that moving away from infrastructure and bricks and mortar to emerging artists and intangible building capability in society, as distinct from building a destination place. So thank you. What role do corporates play in supporting the arts? Because I’m assuming that was sort of more of a public, or the intersection of both government and public money, there. Corporates? How do they actually support the arts?

Douglas Gautier 10:33

Well, some do greatly, of course, nationally, and internationally. I think, it’s more hard these days, unless, of course, they’re somebody on the board of a big corporate, or the CEO or the head of the PR department, or whatever it is, is particularly wedded to the arts, or that there has been a long term history, like the Rockefellers, it’s more difficult these days. And so I think many arts organisations are really concentrated on private giving, which in some cases, of course, has connections to the corporate suit families, etc, strongly connected, but it tends to be private giving. Nonetheless, I think all of us are working hard at the corporate sector. It’s not as straightforward as it used to be, perhaps 20 years ago. Some corporates are associated with industries that some patrons, artists, and politicians are not that keen on. In our country, of course, it’s to do with the resources sector, particularly as things have taken round and, you know, that comes with certain sensitivities. And I think it also depends where you’re located.

So, in our case, Adelaide is 1.2 million, it doesn’t have a lot of Head Offices. And so the sort of things that can be brought off with arts alliances with private banks and other things in Sydney and Melbourne, it’s a much tougher proposition here. And the other thing I would say with corporates, it’s very much these days a marketing/PR deal. Usually. Not always, but usually. In other words, I’m a corporate, I’m going to sponsor you, or a particular festival, or a particular performance. So what I get back in terms of tickets, profile, entertaining all of that. So it’s a real quid pro quo. Usually with the donor it’s I want my name on it or family name on it or I want to be anonymous. But that isn’t the case, usually, with corporate donors.

Lincoln Size 13:01

It’s interesting, because I have a passion for corporates in the sense that I’ve sort of seen the move from the CSR, the corporate social responsibility, through to the ESG, environmental, social governance. And there’s a real paradigm shift that can happen to actually get corporates to align their purpose with investing in society for the better of society. So that sort of the CSR and ESG has been more sort of transactional, looking inwardly within their organisations to say, how is our manufacturing process or how is what we’re doing impacting society, or impacting our interaction with society, through to more altruistic vision of saying, as a corporate, it’s our civic responsibility to give back and invest and build healthier societies and get involved in projects which aren’t necessarily aligned to our manufacturing or purpose of being, but certainly from a values point of view, what their purpose is as a player in society. So corporates are a very interesting topic. But yes, if we can get more corporates investing in the arts, and I guess taking their place in society of building that civic infrastructure, that’d be fantastic.

Douglas Gautier 14:25

It takes a lot of work and it depends where you are. So previously coming from Hong Kong, running the Hong Kong Arts Festival, we have people like Hong Kong Shanghai bank, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, Mercedes Benz, ATT, big companies centered in an international, world city like Hong Kong. It’s a very different proposition from the arts companies and cultural company, working with boards and individuals in those companies because they want different things. So it’s that thing of trying to understand what a corporate wants, and sometimes try to leave the corporate, as you say, it’s beyond the building transactional to something a bit above that.

Lincoln Size 15:16

Yeah. You touched on Asia. Given your time in Asia, what commonalities or differences exist between the the arts funding models in Australia and Asia? And what can be learned from them?

Douglas Gautier 15:27

Well, I always think with Asia, people and organisations tend to have a much longer term view. Not always, but often, than perhaps we do here, because so much of our arts firmament revolves around government funding, and whether it be state or local government or federal, and these governments, because of democracy, change reasonably regularly. Even if it’s change within one party. So there’s a shorter term focus, unfortunately, I think, in some respects. But you know, Asia, it’s hard to generalise because Asia is a very big place and the differences between Japan or India are abundantly clear, they’re very different indeed. And there are some countries that I think clearly, the government funding is paramount; China, Taiwan. Whereas places like South Korea and Japan are really an amalgam of private sector involvement, commercial approach, with culture and making sure box offices ticking over well. And, involved with the private sector, I think if you look at something like South Korea, their industry, arts industry and entertainment industry, 30/40 years ago, they decided that they really wanted to be a force in Asia, maybe internationally, but definitely in Asia. You can see it now in K-Pop, in TV, screen, certainly drama, dance, symphony orchestras believe it or not, and on and on it goes. But there was quite a lot of commercial impetus in that as well. Also, I think, a very strong view of success of South Korean governments, that arts and culture are fundamental to nation building and cohesiveness of good civil society.

I think in places like Singapore and Hong Kong, the arts have always been reasonably well supported by governments, but there have been really big donors, and there continues to be big donors on the corporate side and private individuals. Particularly, I think, a sense of commitment amongst Chinese societies, in terms of the value of culture, whether it be visual arts, music, in particular, sitting alongside giving to hospitals. It’s never either / or. I think India is very much a commercial market and so a lot of involvement from commercial entertainment companies in arts. But I think the long term view that I see in places like China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan, (different in Indonesia, very different in Indonesia), but those other statuses, other nations have very strong commitment to the place of arts and culture in the total firmament of their communities.

You know, it was interesting, I was part of the group, that in so far as tourism was concerned, took over after 1997 in Hong Kong essentially the Hong Kong Government under Tung Chee-hwa, but there was work done prior to the handover with this government that this group of people who were about to take over Hong Kong, and they had something like about eight or nine points as to what should be the fundamental ingredients for retaining Hong Kong as a world city, international city up until the middle of this century. And so you had things like logistics hub, services hub, making sure that the international exchange stayed in Hong Kong and didn’t go to Shanghai, etc. But, you know, one of the pillars was a creative hub for East meets West. And they were really dedicated to that. You can see the kind of money that went in to West Kowloon Culture centre and other things that they were doing. But they understood very clearly that this was a serious fundamental for a great community. And I think that’s admirable. And you can see it in a number of other approaches, particularly South Korea, Singapore even, you know, really has embraced this whole notion of a contemporary Singaporean culture being very much part of that city’s reputation.

Lincoln Size 20:58

And it’s interesting you talk about government because in Singapore, for example, government incentives are far greater to attract family money, family foundations and the like and that sense of giving to build society, as distinct from Hong Kong. Yet Hong Kong has a nice mixture of both Western and Chinese culture. So yes, it’s interesting drawing those parallels between the two and the way that both government and private enterprise and even corporate, intersect to support those organisations, those cities. Douglas, we’re really getting down to the tail end of this so thank you very much, you’ve been a perfect interviewee. What advice would you give to philanthropists who may be wondering how to have the best or greatest impact with their support of the arts?

Douglas Gautier 21:47 Well, I think it’s really to allow people like me to talk, whether they’re corporates or whether they’re individuals, to reach out and try and engage. I think if it’s something that interests them, or just to give arts and culture a chance. I mean, there are some people who we work with who 10 years ago, wouldn’t have come near us, but after discussing possibilities, whether it’s supporting for instance, Adelaide as a UNESCO, a city of creativity for music, it’s the only one in this country. And there are a number of projects that we have moving under that banner, and certainly the UNESCO branding, or accreditation, kudos, whatever you want to call it, has enabled us to reach out to people that otherwise wouldn’t have considered what we’re doing.

But, you know, we have a big regional programme that works out of our Guitar Festival, which goes to country towns all around the state. And that’s something that has interested one person in particular, who is from rural areas and feels that the rural areas have not been served well as far as the arts are concern. You know, education is a big one. I think when some people have had a passing interest in what we do, and we’ve got to know them better and again, another philanthropist in particular, has been very interested in the fact that we, prior to COVID and are starting again. We take a number of interns, arts workers and arts colleagues, from organisations in Asia, from Hong Kong, from Korea, from Japan, China, India, from Singapore. And that’s something that somebody has been quite interested in and didn’t understand that we were involved in those international connections.

So I would say whether it’s performing arts, or whether it’s visual arts or the screen or museums or in fact, all areas of the arts, if a philanthropist has just a passing interest or kind of curiosity, reach out or try and find out more because you might be surprised. And I think that people in our position are always eager to tailor something, a project, which will meet a philanthropist’s needs, either short term or very long term. Going from here today I’m about to have a discussion with a philanthropist who has put considerable support towards an arts leadership intensive course for mid career arts workers, and that’ll start this year. And it’ll involve people from rural areas, but also colleagues from Asia Pacific. That’s a long term vision that he now has for developing that. And we had. So you know, from small things sometimes, because things grow.

Lincoln Size 25:22

That is fantastic, moving that dial from from just programmes and (shouldn’t say just!) from programmes, to, as I said, building capacity and capability and supporting the art enterprise, building that up in indigenous arts and rural communities, was fantastic. The work you’re doing is fantastic, Douglas. Finally, the Adelaide Festival Centre is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Any particular favourite shows, programmes that you think the public should definitely not miss?!

Douglas Gautier 25:55

Well, on June 2nd, we will have an anniversary concert. That was the night that it opened 50 years ago, when our then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and State Premier Don Dunstan, both of whom were great supporters of the arts and this was the first capital city arts in our country, they opened our main theatre. And so it was a huge occasion with Beethoven’s ninth and all of that, which was great. But for this 50th, we’re going to use artists to showcase our five festivals, which we think are in very important areas, First Nations work, our connections with Asia, Cabaret Festival, which we’ve been famous for, for 20 years, our work with kids with Dream Big, and then a UNESCO city of music favourite, which is our Guitar Festival, which is run by Australia’s best classical guitarist, Slava Grigoryan. So on that night, we’ll be showcasing great, young artists from those five festivals, which I think in a nutshell will say this is why Adelaide is Australia’s UNESCO city for music.

Lincoln Size 27:11

Well done. Well, I am delighted. I also live in Adelaide so I’ll be looking forward to participating in or attending some of those events. So thank you, Douglas. That interview again, really appreciate it. Thank you very much, a warm thanks from everyone here at Global Philanthropic. Your participation today has been really greatly welcomed and it’s a fantastic series that you’ve wrapped up in terms of philanthropy, the arts, and particularly the Asian Australian connection. Douglas Gautier, thank you very much.

Douglas Gautier 27:40

Thank you very much Lincoln for the opportunity.