Public galleries provide audiences with opportunities to engage with the visual arts, creating a sense of connection and community, reducing social isolation, improving health and education outcomes and enriching the lives of those they reach. This is achieved by a dedicated group of gallery professionals who bring a vast range of skills and experience and adhere to international standards, to deliver exciting visual art experiences, commission new work and care for nationally significant collections of art and cultural materials.
The PGAV is pleased to highlight eight roles within the public gallery sector and the people who occupy these specialist positions. Learn about their career pathways, the challenges inherent in their roles, and what they identify as the key issues facing the public gallery sector.
We look at the role of Development and Fundraising Officer and speak with Kali Michailidis, Manager of External Relations at TarraWarra Museum of Art.
* A Profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and who hold themselves out as, and are accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.
Australian Council of Professions, 2003
Manager of External Relations
TarraWarra Museum of Art
The Development and Fundraising Officer identifies, cultivates and maintains donor and member
relationships. Working with the Director, they develop fundraising strategies and campaigns that align
with the gallery’s objectives. They actively seek out new patrons and bequests. They lead and support
grant applications to a range of funding and grant-giving bodies including state and federal governments
and private trusts.
For information about roles within public galleries see the PGAV Fact Sheet: Staffing Levels & Position Titles
How did you get started in your career and what formal qualifications do you have?
I have a Bachelor in Fine Art and Masters in Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne. While I was at university, I held volunteer and casual roles at several galleries, which included a Board role at the Artist Run Initiative, BLINDSIDE. This was fantastic experience for me that really exposed me to how galleries operate on multiple levels. Prior to joining TarraWarra Museum of Art, I was General Manager at The Substation where I wore a lot of hats, fundraising being one of them. I became more and more interested in development so when I saw a dedicated role at TarraWarra, I thought it would be a great opportunity to hone my skills. Fundraising and development really is the unsung hero of the art world. I don’t think anyone dreams of becoming a fundraiser, but if you are interested in how to create and support a thriving arts sector, then it could be the role for you. And while there aren’t any formal qualifications in fundraising, there are lots of training sessions run by various groups to improve your skills and network.
What does your role as Manager of External Relations encompass?
I manage all aspects of fundraising and development, including individual donors, philanthropic trusts and foundations, government grants and corporate sponsorship. I also liaise with and provide reports to the Board.
What knowledge and skills do you think are most needed for this role?
Fundraising is first and foremost about relationships, so you have to be good with talking to people, and perhaps even more important – a good listener. Also important to the role is a good understanding of how budgets work so you can identify where the organisation most needs support. Finally, you will hear your fair share of “no” so patience and resilience goes a long way too.
What is the most interesting or challenging aspect of your job?
It comes as no surprise that funding in the arts is competitive but with that comes an opportunity to get creative in who you approach, hone in on what makes your organisation special, and share with others why you love the arts and why it is important to support the arts in society.
What has been your career highlight so far?
TarraWarra Museum of Art is due to open the Eva and Marc Besen Centre in 2024, a dedicated space for learning and engagement programs as well as space to hold about half of our collection in visible storage. Sharing this incredibly exciting development with funding bodies and philanthropists and bringing them on the journey has definitely been a career highlight so far.
What do you think are the key issues for public galleries in the future?
Competition in the entertainment, leisure, and tourism sector. Audiences have so much choice as to where to spend their time and money, so public galleries need to create appealing propositions and really understand and communicate their place and value. This doesn’t mean only creating Instagram-able, blockbuster exhibitions, but also getting creative with communicating the experience of visiting galleries and exhibitions.
The Public Galleries Association of Victoria (PGAV) acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the lands where our office is located, and all Traditional Owners of country throughout Victoria and Australia. We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples enduring traditions and continuing creative cultures. We pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging.