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Every Boardroom Needs an Artist 2016


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Every Boardroom Needs an Artist (EBNA) began in 2015 when YSC’s Sydney office commemorated the company’s 25th anniversary by engaging 13 artists to create portraits of corporate sitters.

The process, which culminated in the unveiling of the works at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, captivated the imaginations of artists and executives alike. When it came to planning this year’s event and one of the artists said, "Let’s do it live," there really was no option but to embrace the challenge.

This year’s event took place on 10 November. A group of 12 artists transformed the event space at Sydney’s cutting-edge Central Park building into a studio and readied themselves for the challenge of painting a portrait of someone they had never met before within a 1.5 hour time-frame. Such a challenge seemed appropriate, as one of YSC’s key areas of expertise is ‘Resilience’.

The artists were divided into three groups. Armed only with their chosen medium, a keen capacity for observation and their own inner resources, each artist depicted one of the two corporate sitters allocated to their group. The artists’ demonstration of the theme of ‘Resilience’ was evident, given both the time constraints under which they were operating and the fact that they were completing their portraits in front of a live audience, rather than in the comparative serenity of an artist’s studio.

However, the links with resilience went beyond the artists’ task on the night and the stresses and deadlines often associated with the corporate world. The spirit of resilience was also evident in the subjects of the portraits themselves. Each pair of sitters represented a facet of the YSC Leadership Resilience Profiler™. This model, which combines the latest academic research with YSC’s experience of leaders who have developed positive resilience habits, identifies the five critical inputs that develop resilience: Support, Confidence, Striving, Recovery and Adapting.

It was these inputs which the corporate sitters embodied so well. The fact that they were sitting in pairs rather than as isolated individuals highlighted one of YSC’s key observations that mentoring relationships, and the support which they provide, are pivotal in developing the resilience muscle. YSC’s Global Head of Resilience, Shelley Winter, notes that “often people talk about resilience as being an internal process, but it’s very much about support networks and relationships. Support is so important, and unfortunately, it’s often the bit that people ignore.

One of our pairs of sitters, Clark Donovan and Campbell Hudson, met through a formal mentoring relationship in the form of the CareerTrackers Indigenous Internship Program, an initiative that develops talent and builds resilience by matching Indigenous university students with private sector employers. Clark, a proud Gumbaynggirr and Gunditjmara man, is studying law at the University of Technology Sydney whilst interning at Gadens, where Campbell is a partner. Campbell and Clark provide an example of how mentoring relationships can extend far beyond periodic conversations in the office or formal meetings. Mentors such as Campbell help mentees strive for more and build their confidence through both successes and failures.


Our second pair of sitters consisted of Leon Condon and Leanne Ralph from Raise youth mentoring foundation. While Leon has extensive experience in the investment and technical services industries, Leanne has worked in finance roles for major international companies ranging from Esso to Fendi. Together they’ve brought their experience to the governance of Raise, helping to create a resilient management structure capable of sustaining itself through the highs and lows of running a non-profit organisation. Under their guidance, Raise has transitioned from a fledgling organisation into one which mentors 1000 young people per year.

Finally, the combination of Stacey Hawkins and Vlad Mihajlovic, who are both store managers from BWS, reminded us that peers often have the capacity to support each other. These relationships are especially important when times get tough, because colleagues help each other build their confidence, recover from failure, and laugh together.

While we often experience art as a finished item hanging on a wall, on that night guests were able to gain insight into the process by which art is created and see the works evolve during the course of the evening. YSC’s Shelley Winter sees some parallels with the subject of resilience in this context as well: “People often talk about resilience in absolute terms, but it’s really something that’s developable. In these unpredictable and uncertain times, rather than asking ourselves whether we have resilience, it’s more about an empowered, proactive position and about asking ourselves how we can develop the capacity for resilience.”

Although the audience in the room had the privilege of seeing the portraits appear before their eyes, the sitters had the difficult task of choosing a winner from amongst the artists in their group. Given the range of incredibly proficient portraits which had been created in such a short time-frame, this task was far from easy.

The winners from each group were Maria Stoljar, with her subtle pencil portrait of CareerTrackers’ intern Clark Donovan, Sean Hutton for his evocative oil depicting Vlad Mihajlovic from BWS and Frannie Deane’s thoughtful oil portrait of Raise Foundation’s Chairman, Leon Condon.

To get a sense of what it was like on the night, please watch the video at the top of the page.

To view all the works completed on the night and to participate in the People’s Choice Award by selecting your favourite portrait, click here.

Anne Phillips
Art & Business Development Consultant to EBNA

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