Amy Barrett-Lennard is the artistic director of PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts) – an institution central to the contemporary art scene in Western Australia that exhibits an inspiring range of contemporary visual, performing and cross-disciplinary arts practices. Prior to her time at PICA, Amy was the Director of the Linden Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne and worked as a Curator in the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery and Goldfields Arts Centre Gallery in Kalgoorlie. She has also worked internationally as the manager of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Amy talks to arts interview about the development of her career in the arts and what one might do who seeks the same.
Interview by Lydia Bradshaw
How important is the role of travel in establishing a successful career in the arts?
I have obviously travelled around quite a lot throughout my career – which has been great. I am not sure it is totally necessary though as some people manage to get to senior positions by staying in the one city their whole lives! I think it just gives you a breadth of experience you wouldn’t have otherwise and extends your network – which is always helpful. Having a thorough and first-hand knowledge of arts practices nationally and/or internationally is also always very desirable.
How big a factor is outside support for a cultural institutions’ prosperity?
Almost all cultural institutions require outside support – their ability to generate income from internal “business” activities is always quite limited and would definitely not sustain ongoing programs. So outside support then generally comes from the Government in the form of grants and funding and from the private sector in the form of sponsorships, donations and philanthropic grants. With static government funding arts organisations are increasingly relying on the latter.
What experience or initiatives would you recommend to individuals aspiring towards careers in arts management?
I would highly recommend volunteering, undertaking internships or initiating your own projects. The first show I ever curated was one that I initiated with a friend and a bunch of artists – did totally without any payment and “afterhours” on top of my day job – and had to raise all the funds for it myself – but it was a great experience and a great start to a career in the arts.
I would also recommend taking on roles that offer a level of autonomy; an opportunity to make a significant difference and that can help you develop leadership skills. These seem to be the kinds of jobs I have had and clearly have been drawn to. They have been enormously rewarding and have always lead to ever more exciting and challenging positions.