Sydney Culture Network is a group of cultural institutions and creative sector organisations working together to make Sydney a global leader in valuing culture. Their objectives are to implement collective strategies to connect Sydney’s cultural offer, grow audience participation, and encourage greater engagement across the cultural life of the city. Ross Harley, Dean of the Faculty of Art & Design and UNSW Chair of Arts and Culture is the Chair of the Network. He shared his views with us about communicating the importance of the arts and enhancing the international profile of Sydney as a place of creativity and ideas. “All of the changes that are impacting the world around us, such as the rapid advancement of technologies, the digitisation of everything and the growth in social media and collective ownership, are having an equally huge impact on how people engage with, consume and support the arts. There are challenges arising from these changes, but also huge opportunities. Co-creation, the democratisation of who we get to hear from, and the increase in marginal voices are all huge opportunities for our sector, requiring us to reconsider our business models and how we operate. The Sydney Culture Network was formed out of a desire from the various arts and culture institutions to be able to work better together on common issues such as training employees, sharing data and best practices. But it was also born out of a sense of frustration that the sector has not been able to effectively communicate its true value to government stakeholders, as well as to the wider public and business community. Sport is successful in articulating its worth because it plays to the absolute intrinsic value of being a human. In the same way in which sport and physical recreation is now completely accepted as an essential part of the experience of being human, for physical and mental wellbeing, the Network is seeking to embed the same degree of understanding about arts and culture. Engagement in the arts changes people’s lives and contributes to the betterment of society. The desire to be creative is something that is fundamental to us as humans, it defines us, helps us to understand who we are and engages what I believe, are our inherent aesthetic sensibilities. What we invest in the arts and culture sector is Sydney is low compared to other Australian cities. And then if you look outside of Australia, and compare our total investment in the arts to China’s for example, it’s a tiny proportion. They invest billions, confident in the incredible outcome it will have in the future for the educational, economic and creative output of their people. So appreciation for the value of arts and culture is about that kind of investment. But it’s also about understanding how the arts and culture permeate all aspects of life. Liveability and many of the things that people care about in their local communities are related to arts and culture, in all its many forms. We can’t have a vibrant night time economy, for example, without things that make people want to connect, communicate and socialise. Museums that are open, small creative endeavours, pop-ups, music venues or artisans making and selling stuff. They are the things that people actually care about, that make them think “this is a cool place to live and work”. So to create that kind of city, it’s not just about funding the high arts and the high museums and culture, we need to think about small, medium, and large institutions and artists in different forms who are all, in a sense, working to improve the life of a city. Often arts institutions compete with each other for funding and audiences and don’t cooperate enough. The Network is aiming to move the conversation away from who should get what slice of a limited pie, towards how to create a bigger pie in every sense for the benefit of us all.” Deloitte’s ImagineSydney series sets out to contribute to the conversation around how we can create smart, flourishing and productive communities through exploring strategies that will drive economic and social development in Sydney. Our third Edition, ImagineSydney:Play is available now.