Honour for arts advocate stalwart
From saving the orchestra to funding cancer research, Brian Stevenson is a man who just keeps giving.
Helping raise almost $5 million for New Zealand’s creative sector is an achievement recognised by a Queen’s Birthday Honour.
The 72-year-old has been made an Officer of The New Zealand Order of Merit.
‘‘I’m grateful but I feel very very humbled,’’ he says.
‘‘I wish I had the talent to be an artist but I don’t, so I feel I’ve been blessed to work with so many talented people.’’
Stevenson lives in Newmarket and has been an advocate in the arts for more than 30 years, a role that has seen him chair several different foundations, trusts and councils.
The opportunity to make a difference to a flailing creative scene came in the early 1980s when the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra went broke.
‘‘It was a bad look for a city the size of Auckland,’’ Stevenson says. ‘‘I was one of the few people invited . . . it’s a great success story all these years later.
‘‘The arts is such an important part of society but there’s a fragility about virtually every artist or arts organisation because it’s very hard for them to make a living.’’
Government support for the arts was always difficult to encourage when the majority of funding went towards sports, Stevenson says.
Tired of the imbalance, he went on to found the Arts Foundation of New Zealand in an attempt to generate private funding.
‘‘There was no sense of equivalent support coming in to the cultural sector.
‘‘It’s now distributed almost $5 million to artists and arts organisations.’’
The foundation’s latest initiative is a crowd funding website for artists called Booster.
The creative scene has been a considerable part of Stevenson’s life but he has also had a successful career running an investment advisory firm.
After selling his business Stevenson became the chairman of the Davis Carr Cancer Society Endowment Trust.
‘‘I’m sure my experience there is a help.
‘‘We’ve got a goal to get the trust to $20m by the year 2020, we’re doing really well. I’m sure we will get there,’’ he says.
Brian Stevenson has made a huge contribution to New Zealand’s creative scene.