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Governance expert offers up ingredients for arts boards' recipe to financial success

13 April 2011

Debt crises, management turmoil and development dramas - Montsalvat, the National Gallery of Victoria and Abbotsford Convent have all hit the headlines for the wrong reasons and it was all down to governance, says Deakin University Chair of Arts Management, Professor Ruth Rentschler.

Professor Rentschler, from the School of Management and Marketing said this year's George Fairfax Fellow lecture would put governance in Arts organisations front and centre when Professor Johanne Turbide from the HEC Montreal examined whether good governance was a cure to preventing financial crises in arts organisations.

"Professor Turbide argues good governance is more than a simple recipe," Professor Rentschler said.

"It is like 'fine cuisine' in a three-star Michelin Guide restaurant. It needs high-quality basic ingredients as well as subtle ones, some exotic spices and a relationship which works."

Professor Rentschler said Professor Turbide believed relationships were a fundamental part of arts governance.

"The situations we have seen in Victoria are quite simply where the relationship has very publicly broken down, trust becomes distrust and concerns start to emerge about the board's ability to control the situation," she said.

Professor Rentschler said Professor Turbide would speak about her experiences and the lessons learned from working with Quebec's Ministry of Culture to 'save' 10 arts organisations at the height of their individual financial crises.

"Usually by the time Professor Turbide and her team were called in by the Ministry, the bank account was empty, there was no money to write the next paycheque, or suppliers were sending their lawyers to collect payment," she said.

"Professor Turbide worked with these organisations to ensure they were following their restructuring plans but also as a researcher observing how relationships between the board, staff and funders evolved during the crisis and discovering what makes good governance in non profit arts organisations."

Professor Rentschler said Professor Turbide had observed that artistic directors needed to help board members understand the nuances of the artistic product the board about the artistic product as board members often come to the board without that assumed artistic knowledge.

"The board in turn has a role to play, it needs to look beyond a charismatic CEOs and the organisations' artistic success to ensure robust financial reporting controls are in place and followed," she said.

Professor Rentschler said Professor Turbide had conducted over 40 interviews with arts managers across the province of Quebec, as well as board members and their managers to develop and test a governance framework.

"One thing, became clear: It is easier to have a good board than to have good governance."

Further information:

Poor Governance Sickens the Arts – We have the cure

The lecture will go from 11.45am-2.30pm , ANZ Pavilion, the Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne

News facts
  • Is good governance a cure to preventing financial crises in arts organisations
  • Lecture to look at the lessons learned from working with Quebec's Ministry of Culture to 'save' 10 arts organisations at the height of their individual financial crises.
  • Boards needs to look beyond a charismatic CEOs and the organisations' artistic success to ensure robust financial reporting controls are in place and followed

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221
sandra.kingston@deakin.edu.au

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14th April 2011