Home' Scoop : Scoop 53 Spring 2010 Contents I
t’s a vision thing. Sean Doran –
the inaugural Artistic Director of
Country Arts WA’s quadrennial
regional arts conference, to be held in
Geraldton in September 2011 – has
an enthralling vision for regional WA, backed by
an astonishing ability to think long term.
Not that either should come as a surprise.
After all, Sean’s name became synonymous
with the long, long view through his previous
incarnation as artistic director of the Perth
International Arts Festival. From 2000 to 2003 he
not only transformed the longest-running festival
in Australia into one of the most memorable
ever, but extended its reach out into the regions.
Who can forget such memorable works as
the Peony Pavilion, the Angel Project or his unique
Australian staging of the Gotterdammer ung, the
last in Wagner’s four-opera Ring Cycle? But
perhaps his most lasting and famous leg acy is
the commissioning of English sculptor Antony
Gormley’s Inside Australia sculptures at Lake
Ballard. Seven years after his time at PIAF ended,
these statues, created from images of the people
of nearby Menzies, continue to draw tourists from
all over the world.
Yet he initially encountered resistance to
the idea of the Inside Australia sculptures.
“Commissioning the Gormley statues for the
50th Perth Festival in 2003 was a way of breaking
the taboo of where the festival can take place or
where world-class art can happen and who it can
involve,” he recalls.
Jac Eerbeek, CEO of tourism organisation,
Australia’s Golden Outback, estimates 10,000 to
15,000 visitors annually come to the region just
to visit the Lake Ballard statues. “Numbers are
escalating as people start to realise what a famous
attraction this is in the middle of our goldfields.
“I don’t think Sean has yet received the
accolades he should, for his foresight developing
that. More and more people are g oing out there
and if Sean ever wanted to do another piece of
artwork in our area, we’d be delighted to assist.”
But Sean is aware of the view that his vision
came at a price. The oft-quoted figure of a $2.7
million deficit in his first year as PIAF director is,
he says, erroneous and never cited in context.
“I warned of the impending loss several
months before my first festival in 2000, as it was
the oldest festival in the country, but the least
resourced. We made most of the money up later,
and gained more through private sponsorship, so
$1.2 million would have been my deficit at the end
of my tenure. I also said that I wanted to develop
the budget, to develop the festival as a business
and financial model, as much as an artistic one.”
He admits he’s partly responsible for any
lingering misconception as he never countered
the figure or context at the time. “I never pointed
fingers. I knew where I was driving it financially
and artistically, and at the time I felt it was
important to just keep focused.”
Now he feels a sense of vindication that
projects like the Gormley sculptures are proving
their financial merits as much as their artistic ones.
His tenure as director of the Perth International
Arts Festival was marked by controversy, but with
his vision vindicated, Sean Doran is bringing seven
international-standard arts festivals to regional WA
words bron sibree « images tony mcdonough
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