There are many ways to give to the arts and not all of them involve money. Many arts lovers want more involvement, and are more invested, in arts projects. Cue Darren Spowart.
Darren is an ex-dancer of the Australian Ballet and Sydney Dance who now dedicates his talents to his own pilates company and being a practitioner of Chinese Medicine.
Darren was instrumental in supporting talented young ballet dancer Lee Zammit’s ACF campaign which raised more than $20,000 to support the costs of a two-year scholarship in Germany. With a keen love of dance and penchant for supporting emerging talent – we asked our new favourite person to answer a few of our most pressing questions.
First up, a bit of fun:
What would you tell your younger self?
Throughout your life, there are people who have the ability, the resources and generosity to mentor you and support you through your development as a young artist. It takes great awareness, and humility to recognise this and maturity to accept it. I would tell my younger self to be comfortable with peoples’ willingness to help you along the way.
Name a talent you don’t have and wish you did.
A green thumb.
What can’t you live without?
You’ve actively engaged with artists by supporting their work as a peer, donor, trainer and mentor. Tell us some of your highlights.
Highlights occur everyday, sometimes from the smallest things. I could name drop and boast about the extraordinary opportunities I’ve been offered, but they are no greater highlights than the privilege of teaching, mentoring and donating to an artist in the making. Whatever I put towards their development, they’ve already earned by their sacrifices.
How did you become aware of Lee Zammit’s talents and what made you want to be so involved in his campaign?
I saw in Lee a very talented 17 year old who loved dancing so much but was not able to afford to take up the scholarship he was offered in Germany and needed financial support for his living expenses for the year. It’s unbearable to witness the heartbreak of a dancer. I feel the same with all of my students.
Philanthropy is on the rise in Australia, with more individuals becoming more active and supporting local projects. Does this speak to your personal ethos and is this something that you’re seeing in the wider dance community?
I’m sure that everyone has a story about how someone has helped him or her to fulfill an opportunity. I certainly have had many in my life and I’m certain I don’t know the half of it. Until helping Lee with his campaign; my support came in different ways; mainly my time and skills. Lee is a very humble and sweet-natured young man who never asked for assistance. Recognising that he needed financial assistance was the first step and then I became aware of how many people are willing to help make his dream come true. One of the earliest donations came from someone currently in the dance industry and this meant so much to me. Some were seasoned philanthropists and others, like myself wanted Lee to succeed so much that it was an easy decision. The extremely short-lived career of a dancer is not a hobby. You only have to live a day in their shoes to know the demands physically, emotionally, financially and socially. But in their heart and soul, they must do it.
There are many ways to support an artist’s fundraising campaign. You were instrumental to Lee’s campaign – arranging a fundraising event and connecting him with your clients. How did this eventuate and whose idea was it? Was this your plan from the outset or was it more fluid than that?
It was absolutely fluid. Firstly, I asked a client and philanthropist how he makes tax-deductible donations, which led me to ACF. Lee and I worked together on his application and profile with a lot of help from ACF guru, Esther Gyorki.
I then talked to my regular clients about Lee and many pledged to donate based on my recommendation, I was amazed. I decided to introduce Lee to his potential donors by hosting a studio performance and reception. I wanted Lee to be more than a face of a campaign and by performing for the donors a relationship is developed. I hired a studio, Lee’s mother provided a vegan banquet and some friends pitched in with champagne. Lee performed 2 solos and Deborah Jones, who is national dance critic for The Australian newspaper, gave a beautiful speech. Many donors couldn’t attend the event, but it was recorded and I emailed copies to them. Lee is now almost 2 months into his scholarship and has kept his promise to send videos of his progress, which all the donors get to see.
Finally, if you had one piece of advice for art lovers looking to become involved in supporting artists – what would it be?
There are always young and aspiring artists right in front of us who may not get to develop into mature artists because they haven’t enough funds. And who in the world can say they have not been impassioned and transformed by an artist in some way? I shall leave the final word with Deborah Jones who said this at Lee’s performance event:
“How often do we think about what goes into making a dancer? Like serious musicians, dancers start their journey to the stage when they’re very young and have to devote themselves to it to a degree few of us could imagine. That, and fitting in their schoolwork and some semblance of a life. It’s tough. And it’s tough trying to make that transition from student to performer. In a way Lee stands in for any number of young people who have given their all to this art and just need a bit of a boost to get over the line.
In helping him, we go some small way towards helping the art, helping our cultural life. That’s how perceptions are challenged and broadened, our imaginations stretched and where the spirit soars.You know how people always say about a young dancer who makes it, “well, their dreams have come true”. That is indeed so. But they make our dreams come true too. Without their incredible hard work and talent, we’d be looking at an empty stage. ” – Deborah Jones
Support the next generation of culture makers!
There are many ways to give to the arts and not all of them involve money. If you’re not in a position to donate cold hard cash you might be able to share your expertise, help promote the project, or volunteer your time to support the campaign itself. Or you can follow in Darren’s footstep and do a combination of all of the above! It’s so important and it makes such a difference, and, it feels pretty darn good as well! Browse the projects on the ACF now, get in touch, and lend a helping hand where you can.