ANY city that doesn’t seriously embrace the arts loses something of its soul.
So says the incoming chair of the Cultural Facilities Corporation, John Hindmarsh, a man unfazed by the hard work ahead.
“I’m not a time server, I’m in there to make a genuine contribution,” he says.
It’s a big role with big responsibilities for Canberra’s local art scene –
the Cultural Facilities Corporation manages the Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra Museum and Galleries and historical places, such as Lanyon, Calthorpes’ House and Mugga Mugga.
But Mr Hindmarsh, like all facets of his life – he is executive chair of Hindmarsh, a building and construction company he built in 1979 – is willing to put in the hard work.
“The broader vision that I’ve got for CFC is to build its inclusiveness for the community,” he says.
“The best contribution I can make is to help encourage greater use and greater support for the facilities.”
He also includes a push to encourage more philanthropic support from the city.
“What I would like is to see that whole precinct [Civic Square] significantly built in its physical form to reinforce the whole centre of the city.
“Having the arts, those artistic capabilities, right in the middle of the city is a great start.
“They deserve to be more visible and more accessible to people; perhaps we have in the past, but I am certainly looking at encouraging that to occur over time.”
Mr Hindmarsh, replaces Prof Don Aitkin, who served for almost a decade as the CFC chair.
In terms of his arts background – “stimulated by my wife’s involvement in the [NGA]” – he sits as chairman of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation and member of the NGA’s governing council.
But he is also involved with many other local organisations including, Canberra Business Council as a director and a life member, Hands Across Canberra Charity as a director and an adjunct Professor of Building and Construction Management at the University of Canberra.
“I’m a Canberran, so I am just as committed in getting those sort of involvements in Canberra,” he said.
“I was a founding member of the Business Council, 31 years ago, and Master Builders.
“Things that are local; that’s why I was delighted to accept the offer, when the Minister asked me whether I would take on the Cultural Facilities Corporation.
“I thought it was something that I could do at a local level, and still blended my interest in the arts, and although I am mostly involved with the visual arts, the theatre is incredibly important part of our local scene.”
His business Hindmarsh, built Canberra Theatre Centre’s The Playhouse back in 1998. “John Bell thinks its the best theatre in Australia for performing his work,” he says.
Of Canberra Theatre, he says: “It’s just not big enough and not flexible enough. It was probably ahead of its time when it was built 47 years ago.
“It’s sort of showing its age a bit sometimes, but nonetheless, its still very important.”
Education is also on the agenda, for the CMAG and Canberra Theatre Centre.
“CMAG is interesting, it’s got a great reputation with education for kids and things like that,” he said.
“It’s doing a good job with a lot of the things it does, but it could lift its prominence.
“I don’t think that enough Canberra people really know of what a valuable asset they’ve got here.
“I’m hoping we will be able to stimulate that interest, to continue to see it grow.”
He’s also passionate about ACT’s historical places, describing Lanyon Homestead as “one of our national treasures”.
“I think we should be making a lot more use of it from our own community and from a national point of view,” he said.
“I think Lanyon offers some terrific potential.”
But, he says, with the Federal and ACT Governments developing new arts policies, anything could happen in the future.
“Over the next six to 12 months maybe there will be some other facilities that will come into our orbit,” he said.
Mr Hindmarsh is impressed with CMAG saying: “It’s a well structured organisation, it’s been well run.
“It has as its chief executive [Harriet Elvin] somebody who probably knows more about arts administration than anyone else locally in this city.
“From that point of view, the integration into the board is proving to be pretty easy.
“Harriet has an incredibly deep knowledge of what’s going on.”