LEADING businesswoman, philanthropist and advocate of increasing the number of women in business and leadership roles, Carol Schwartz, AM, has been appointed chairwoman of the agency replacing the Australia Business Arts Foundation (AbaF) and Artsupport Australia.
Ms Schwartz, a former president of the Melbourne International Arts Festival and founding chairwoman of the Women's Leadership Institute Australia, will head the merged organisation, which is charged with attracting philanthropy, corporate sponsorship and business support for the arts.
Announcing the appointment yesterday, Arts Minister Simon Crean said Ms Schwartz would maximise the connections between artists, cultural organisations, business and private donors.
"Ms Schwartz's strong mix of leadership, strategic planning and risk management skills will be invaluable in her role as chair of this new philanthropic private sector support organisation," Mr Crean said. "Her extensive business experience is coupled with a demonstrable commitment over many years to Australia's arts, philanthropic and community sectors."
The merger of AbaF and Artsupport is in line with recommendations of a recent review of private sector support for the arts by ad man and philanthropist Harold Mitchell.
Ms Schwartz said the merger of the two organisations showed business and the arts had recognised the importance of partnerships and collaboration. "It's a very exciting time to be involved in supporting the arts in Australia," she said.
In a recent interview with The Age, she described herself as an "indomitable business person who is very curious, who is happy to take risks" and who was "lucky enough to be born into a family where that spirited behaviour was really encouraged and celebrated".
She is one of the more prominent members of the Besen dynasty, which developed major shopping centres in Melbourne and Sydney and founded the Sussan fashion retailing empire.
She is a director of the Schwartz family's Qualitas property group and Yarra Capital Partners private equity firm, and is on the boards of several Besen family-controlled companies.
She is also a former president of the Property Council of Australia and has served on the boards of the Industry Superannuation Property Trust, the Docklands Authority in Victoria, the Australian Ballet School and the National Gallery of Australia, among others.
Outspoken about the barriers facing women in business and leadership, Ms Schwartz was recently nominated for The Australian Financial Review and Westpac's inaugural 100 Women of Influence awards.
Her appointment to the arts body is for three years.