A global first for Sydney cultural organisations

A consortium of 27 cultural organisations have come together to increase visibility and accelerate innovative partnerships.
A global first for Sydney cultural organisations

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Last week, 27 cultural organsations came together in Sydney for a global first. Their goal: to work together to make Sydney a global leader in valuing culture.

While cities globally have branded themselves by harnessing the role that culture, innovation and creativity play in defining places, the networks and nuances that sit behind the big splash festivals and events are not always as visible internationally.

‘We’re exploring our relationships to make the invisible more tangible, and to strengthen the dynamic connections that draw our cultural organisations together,’ said Alexie Glass-Kantor, Executive Director, Artspace.


The Sydney Culture Network is driven by UNSW and will link Sydney’s artistic hubs – galleries, libraries and museums – to boost collaboration, research, programming and data sharing, and to grow public engagement.

‘Sydney Culture Network is bigger than just the GLAM [galleries, libraries, archives, and museums] sector. It should also emphasise the cultural and intellectual life of Sydney,’ said Richard Neville, Mitchell Librarian and Director, Education and Scholarship, State Library of NSW.

Described as ‘the first of its kind in Australia’, the Network is the culmination of almost two years of discussions, and emerged out of a backdrop of cuts to cultural funding and unprecedented growth in the city.

More than 100 people attended the business-to-business launch last week. UNSW Chancellor David Gonski AC said to the crowd that he was unaware of any other major city where a group of arts organisations, cultural institutions and academics have come together as a peer-to-peer, not-for-profit organisation designed to support cooperation between its members and lift the city’s cultural scene.

‘Sydney Culture Network is about creating conditions for a new collaborative ecology that will foster even greater creativity and drive innovation. We want to elevate the value of culture, and to enhance the role of Sydney as an international hub of creativity and ideas,’ said Gonski.

The consortium will be publicly launched in mid 2018. 

The power of one is the power of many

Sydney Culture Network members have developed a collaborative working methodology through monthly meetings over the last 18 months, and have agreed on a constitution and organisational form which will allow a flexible, non-hierarchical structure for a variety of projects, according to the organisation’s website.

Dean of Art & Design at UNSW, Professor Ross Harley, has referred in the past to a similar collaboration – New York City’s Museum Mile – where nine museums on a section of Fifth Avenue developed an alliance to boost support of the arts and local galleries.

‘The Sydney Culture Network is about connecting the dots of culture across the city. The more we can work together, the better our understanding of the audiences we serve,’ said Professor Harley.

The network confirmed that its members collectively:

  • are joint custodians of over 25 million collection objects;
  • provide 100+ spaces for creative production across the city;
  • directly employ over 2700 people in Sydney, and
  • have a combined audience attendance of 12.7m and over 195,000 school visits.

View the list of member organisations here

The Network is currently weighted towards the visual arts and museum sectors.

‘Creating a better understanding of the true depth of cultural diversity that exists across the whole of Sydney is an important outcome for Sydney Culture Network. It will allow audiences to break through known worlds to experience the real Sydney. Understanding the challenges, opportunities and potential of the Sydney arts and cultural ecosystem has revealed many possibilities for collaboration,’ said Michael Dagostino, Director, Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Inaugural project

Craig Donarksi, Director, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, said the Network hopes to create deep and productive connections between the partner organisations, resulting in events and projects that would be impossible to resource otherwise.

'We have already had actual project outcomes, including a South East Asian cultural event and a series of relationships established that will enable us to launch our retail/gift shop arm,’ Donarksi said.

One of the first activities enabled by the Sydney Culture Network brought successive cohorts of Masters of Curating and Cultural Leadership students from UNSW Art and Design into a number of Network member organisations, including Casula Powerhouse, Art Gallery of NSW and Artspace, spending one semester embedded in the organisation to deliver their Capstone project.

The Capstone is designed to build research, project design and management into the students’ skill base and offerings as professionals in the field, and to offer the participating organisations the resources and perspectives of a diverse range of emerging sector workers.


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Gina Fairley

Tuesday 24 October, 2017

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

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