Hon­our for arts ad­vo­cate stal­wart

Central Leader - - NEWS - By ALAS­TAIR LYNN

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.

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