Melbourne Festival and National Gallery of Victoria present

Art For Arts Sake

BRETT SHEEHY AO (2009—2012)

Melbourne, base for Australia’s most sophisticated independent theatre sector; focus of contemporary dance in Australia; home to this country’s most enthusiastic and knowledgeable music audiences across the full breadth of genres; lover of the visual arts and appreciator of design; and host to the achievements of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Theatre Company and The Australian Ballet, which, along with so many other companies and artists, have also made their mark overseas.

Brett Sheehy AO will be joined by other guests to discuss how the art forms and the approach and concerns of artists have changed over the past thirty years. What has been the impact on Melbourne’s culture, identity and how does a festival such as Melbourne’s reflect and contribute to that evolution?


Richard Watts (moderator)
Brett Sheehy AO
Gideon Obarzanek
Mary Valentine AO



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Panellist biographies

Brett Sheehy AO is one of Australia’s most accomplished and acclaimed artistic directors, producers and curators. He is Artistic Director and CEO of Melbourne Theatre Company, having concluded his four year tenure as Artistic Director of Melbourne Festival in 2012. He is the only person ever to be appointed to direct three of the five international arts festivals in Australia’s State capital cities. In the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours Brett was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for "distinguished service to the performing and visual arts as a director of national festivals, to international artistic exchange, and through mentoring roles."

Richard Watts is the national performing arts writer for arts industry website ArtsHub; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Triple R. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the boards of La Mama Theatre and the journal Going Down Swinging; he is also a member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, and a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival.

Gideon Obarzanek is a director and choreographer. He founded dance company Chunky Move in 1995 and was the CEO and Artistic Director until 2012. His works for Chunky Move have been diverse in form and content including stage productions, installations, site-specific works, participatory events and film. These have been performed in many festivals and theatres around the world including Edinburgh International, BAM Next Wave NY, Venice Biennale, Southbank London, Territoria Festival Moscow and all major Australian performing arts festivals. He is currently Chair of Melbourne Fringe.

Mary Valentine AO is the Chief Executive Officer of Melbourne Recital Centre. Previous to her appointment, Mary was the Director of Business Development, Concerts at Musica Viva, the national chamber music and music education organisation. In Melbourne, she was Acting Managing Director of Victorian Opera for six months in 2008/9 and has also worked with the Music Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, Adelaide Festival and the State Theatre Company of South Australia. Mary was Managing Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for 17 years. Mary is Chairperson of The Australian Youth Orchestra, the pre eminent national organisation for orchestral training.