ONE FREEHILLS consultant is making a contribution to the cultural health of Western Australia through ongoing work with the Australian Business Arts Foundation (AbaF) and arts organisations.
Describing himself as a “very bad amateur musician”, Tony Wilson has just managed the incorporation of the JB Seed Ltd as a not-for-profit company, originally established in 2004 by musician, John Butler.
“Usually the motivation for this comes when some sort of creative person wants to do something, and they need funds to do that,” Wilson said. “John Butler is basically doing this as part of his broader musical empire.”
Along with gaining access to grants, arts organisations who want to incorporate need people with professional skills in law, marketing, and accounting and finance to be members of their boards, Wilson said.
“They would be the three predominant professional areas that you would want to have represented on any board in the cultural arts sector,” Wilson said. “It’s fine to have interested, enthusiastic people with a general interest in a particular art form on the board, but these organisations are all going to have legal and finance issues, and issues about how to market and profile themselves.”
For the past 25 years, Wilson has worked with a wealth of cultural entities, such as the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Graduate College of Dance and live music, theatre and visual arts body, Artrage.
“There are a number of individuals who worked within the auspices of Artrage who were attracting funding, and one of them is an organisation which is using as a business name ‘Thin Ice’,” he said.
“It gets to a point with those sorts of organisations where either the auspicing organisation like Artrage, or usually a government funding organisation, says to them: ‘in order for us to give you more money, you have to become incorporated, because we want you to have a board, or a committee of management — all that not-for-profit legal structure’.”
AbaF is a Federal Government company driven by business to encourage and facilitate a culture of giving and mutually beneficial partnerships between the private and the cultural sector, Western Australia state manager Henry Boston said.
“The range of cultural organisations that have been helped by the Freehills Perth office include craft, literature, contemporary arts, theatre and music,” Boston said. “The outcome is to increase the sustainability of an organisation, so essentially we are talking about teaching someone to fish rather than giving the person a fish to eat.”
Wilson first became involved in work with arts organisations when, as a lecturer at law school, an acquaintance asked him with help in incorporating a dance company.
“I’ve always had a very deep interest in the arts through literature and music,” Wilson said. “It was just a natural thing for me to say, ‘yes, I’ll help you’, and I’ve done that for maybe seven or eight different organisations in the last 20 years or so.”
One of the great benefits of doing this sort of work is the ability to meet creative people involved in diverse cultural activities, Wilson said. “I find it personally inspiring to go and see things like that. It puts another dimension into you life if you’ve got an interest outside of work.”