The Musica Viva CEO has won the Arts Leadership Award at this year’s ceremony.

The Creative Partnerships Awards last night honoured five leaders from business philanthropy and the arts for their contributions to Australia’s cultural life at a ceremony at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The awards are about fostering and celebrating relationships between the private sector, philanthropy and the arts. Creative Partnerships Australia’s CEO Fiona Menzies said, “Our 2016 Award winners are truly outstanding individuals who embody the qualities that define excellence in arts and business partnerships and are, through their leadership, commitment, creativity and advocacy, building a strong, sustainable future for Australia’s cultural sector. What sets these leaders apart is their commitment to championing the spirit of giving to the arts and promoting the value of supporting arts to the broader community. I congratulate all our Award winners and believe they will encourage increased investment and engagement with the arts.”

Mary Jo Capps, the CEO of Australia’s oldest independent professional performing arts organisation, Musica Viva, was awarded the Arts Leadership Award. The four other awardees were Peter Wilson (Emerging Philanthropy Leadership Award),  Julieanne Alroe and Richard Goyder AO (Business Arts Leadership Award), and Naomi Milgrom AO (Philanthropy Leadership Award). Capps spoke with Limelight about the importance of these awards: “I think they’re enormously important – and not just because I’m getting one! – they are enormously important because they celebrate an area that can flow below the radar. These are all about relationships that take two sides to create; it’s about the arts talking to the private sector and vice versa. This recognises the good things that arise from people working on those relationships.”

Capps was really thrilled to win the Arts Leadership Award. “It’s something you can’t apply for, it was a complete surprise! It comes out of the blue and it’s voted on by your peers, so I feel hugely honoured.”

According to Capps, part of her success has been about being in the right place at the right time. “This was a whole new area when I got into it and it was Wendy McCarthy and Mary Valentine who said, ‘You know, this is probably going to become a thing, this private sector support for the arts. It might be an area you might be interested in exploring.’ And right they were! I’ve been enormously fortunate in having wonderful people who have supported the work and having wonderful people who have responded to it.”

The other part, she said, was about putting yourself in the shoes of the other party. “That has led to a number of fantastic relationships and fantastic results in funding for the arts. I’m particularly pleased with our relationship with The Berg Family Foundation and of our corporate relationships with people like Rio Tinto and Wesfarmers – they’re just amazing.” She also acknowledged the contributions of smaller companies like Dickson Advisory. “I think it’s more about identifying some of those less usual partners and making those relationships work.”

Capps is positive about the future of private sector partnerships with the arts: “I think that those collaborative efforts are going to be a big thing in the future. It has moved on from being people handing over a cheque. For a long time the private sector has wanted to be more of a partner in this and I think our great success at Musica Viva has been responding to that. Because we are so national and because we are so varied in what we do, we’re probably more agile in being able to respond to those sorts of things. We have lots and lots of different projects that we could take on board.”

For Capps it’s about creating something that’s larger than the sum of its parts. She says, “It’s about building dreams together, working with community, with arts organisations and with the private sector, to really create something that’s much bigger than any one of the individual components.”