Around the world, arts and culture are acknowledged as cornerstones of our identity, delivering both intrinsic and economic value. And while Europe and North America are perhaps the most established cultural epicentres, it might surprise some to discover that Asia-Pacific has the largest creative economy in the world, worth $743 billion and generating 12.7 million jobs.
"In China alone, there are probably a dozen art centres being built each year, with every municipal area of 1 million+ wanting its own arts centre," says Douglas Gautier AM, CEO and Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival Centre.
Identifying opportunities and facilitating connections is central to Gautier’s role and this has been pivotal to establishing South Australia as a vibrant hub for Asian-Australian cultural engagement.
Since 2006, Gautier has introduced the vastly successful OzAsia Festival, and more than doubled attendances at the Adelaide Festival Centre. In 2015-2016, the Centre played host to more than 1 million people, making $31 million in ticket sales; its total economic contribution and social value amounted to $160 million for South Australia, with its activities supporting over 1000 jobs.
Gautier also actively supports organisations to leverage the growth of the creative industries in the region, in his capacity as Chair of the Association of Asia Pacific Performing Arts Centres.
The creative and cultural industries are big business, and business is booming.
"From software suppliers, architects, agents—all sorts of industries are looking to our network of over 60 arts centres across 20 countries to do business and benefit."
In Australia alone, cultural activity contributes $50 billion to gross domestic product, with nearly 98% of the population engaging with the arts.
Now, his sights are firmly set on the Adelaide Festival Centre’s redevelopment works, due for completion in 2018. As the most significant capital infrastructure project undertaken at the Centre since its opening in 1973, the works will transform the building and its surroundings, further enhancing the Adelaide Riverbank amenities in the heart of the CBD, and enabling large-scale musical productions to be staged in Adelaide through the expansion of Her Majesty’s Theatre.
"The redevelopment is a fantastic opportunity for the State, and will be a major asset in the Adelaide precinct," says Gautier.
"Yet the buildings are only a means to an end. Creative cities are cities that people like to visit, live in, invest in, and raise children.
Creativity is a great economic resource as well as being something that is essential for good civic society".
He says that the ability of a city to attract and appeal to global talent is dependent on the vibrancy of its creative and cultural industries. And the biggest challenge is to remain relevant.
"The dynamics in our cities are changing. Our communities are far more multicultural today, than 40 years ago—and consequently, our programs need to be relevant, open and accessible to all."
Partnering with creative and cultural organisations can also provide significant benefits to the business community, with many businesses eager to be associated with the creative industries.
"People are now seeing many more connections between activity in the arts, science, and business. Rather than siloes, these sectors are much more porous, and there is so much creativity in cutting edge industries".
Looking ahead, Gautier can only see growth for the cultural and creative sectors, and plans to double the Adelaide Festival Centre’s attendance figures within four years. "In the future, more of our time will be taken up with leisure activities, and so arts and entertainment will continue to be big industries."
When asked for his secret to the Adelaide Festival Centre’s swelling audience numbers, in the context of digital disruption and competing entertainment and recreation options, Gautier answers, with a twinkle, "It’s the maxim that drives us—it’s better live!"