Q&A with Gareth Hart, Future Leaders Program

    10 September 2018

    Gareth Hart is an independent Artist, Producer, Festival Director, Cultural Development Officer and arts advocate. He is also an Australia Council Future Leader.

    Gareth shares his experience so far in the Future Leaders Program.

    1. What did you learn from your experience?

    It’s not only the power of what we do (bringing people together to experience and celebrate culture), but also the thematic undercurrent behind everything we do: creative arts teach us more about being human. On a practical note, I am somewhat obsessed with the idea of reimagining traditional leadership hierarchies, or what I heard from David Pledger recently as ‘distributive leadership‘. So, naturally people are important.

    I like the idea of re-imagining leadership: what it looks like, feels like and sounds like. The great thing about re-imagining, is the implication that old forms of leadership were once imagined, meaning they can be imagined again.  And in fact, if something was once imagined, then before this it did not exist. It was imagined into being. A radical thought indeed….


    Always lead through your values. And remain flexible – you have no idea what curly corners are coming, nor where you will end up. Difficult situations just mean there is developmental work to be done, and there’s learning in everything.

    2. What do you understand ‘cultural leadership’ to be?

    - A practice of re-imagining

    - Being connected with, reflective of, and respondent to the communities we work with

    - Have a practical hand in the present, and an empowered vision of the future

    3. What do you think is the most important trait for a cultural leader?

    Firstly and bravely I think Leadership is about listening. Deeply. Which is all at once: a practice to engage in; a conceptual thing; and a physical doing. This actually surfaced for me, in a very overt way during the Future Leaders program, and I just can’t seem to de-obsess myself with the thought.

    What if listening can be leadership?

    How might people be more empowered, communities more in control, artists more brave, and organisations more responsive through an omnidirectional practice of listening?

    4. What advice would you give your past self or someone else about leading others?

    Always lead through your values. And remain flexible – you have no idea what curly corners are coming, nor where you will end up.  Difficult situations just mean there is developmental work to be done, and there’s learning in everything.

    5. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing arts leaders today?

    The ethics of leadership. Who do we work for, what voice do our programs / venues / projects / audiences have?  What is our cultural obligation through this work we do? Australia is unstable politically, and this is felt at every level of the community, and no more so than through those who are creating work in response to and in conversation with the present (i.e. the arts).

    6. Are there any resources that you turn to, or have drawn leadership inspiration from?

    From people. The ones I know, the one’s I’ve met recently, and the ones who come to me through the internet. It is the people, ideas and practices that inspire me and show me an alternative vision for what has historically been and the potentiality of what is yet to be realised.

    And in that, I acknowledge that I am a person. And through my own embodiment, I have a wealth of practice inside me.  I have learnt to trust in the knowledge and values that I’ve developed through a lifetime of engagement in the arts.

    Find out more about the Future leaders Program

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