Q&A with Anne Rodda, CEO, James Wallace Art Trust

April 30, 2018

Anne Rodda was appointed the inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the James Wallace Art Trust in September last year. The Trust enables the arts in New Zealand through direct and indirect support to the artists and organisations creating, developing, presenting, and discussing work. They carefully render resources to maintain and grow a historic collection of New Zealand’s visual arts.

Anne is also the Executive Director of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition. Her previous roles include General Manager of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO), Auckland Writers & Readers Festival and NZ Sculpture OnShore Ltd, and Executive Officer of the Cognition Education Trust. Before that she was a professional cellist.

We spoke to Anne about her work and experience in the sector.

What was your first ever experience in the not-for-profit sector?

I have only ever worked in not-for-profit—except for when I was at university and was a concierge at fancy hotels. My first proper job was as Operations Manager of the Breckenridge Music Festival in Colorado USA—it was there that I cut my teeth. My early roles were largely in ops and artistic areas—it was when I took on the GM role at the APO that fundraising became such a necessity. Most of my career I have been the one applying for grants and pitching for sponsorship and donors. It was during my five years with the Cognition Education Trust that I got some real experience as a grant provider.

What have been some major highlights of your career?

Running the APO gave me a lot of regular satisfaction—every weekly concert was evidence of a vibrant organisation producing quality music, but my highs come from the performances at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition. The level of skill and artistry of these young talents is jaw-dropping and spine-tingling.  I have learned that my greatest motivator is providing a platform to launch the careers of exceptional young people.

What most appealed to you about the role of CEO at the James Wallace Art Trust?

The Trust is one of New Zealand’s greatest assets and Sir James is probably our equivalent to a Peggy Guggenheim-type persona. He has been collecting New Zealand art since the mid-1960s and the collection now has 9000 works—on display in 100 sites across the country. The work and reach of the Trust is massive—the collection, the two historic venues we operate, the annual art awards and the 120+ grants each year that we administrate.  To be honest, the grantmaking was probably the biggest draw for me but I recognise the privilege of leading this iconic organisation into the future and I honour the treasure that it is for the country.

 Now that you’re six months into the role, how have you found the transition, and what are you enjoying most?

Practically-speaking, I’m now commuting every day (thank you Waterview Tunnel) so it has taken me a while to get accustomed to a new rhythm where I’m away from my normal hood for full long days. Most of my work at the Trust has been building and implementing systems and policies. We have recently overhauled our granting programme and I’m excited about the rollout. The staff is dedicated and passionate about the work of the Trust and I have the added perk of having my office walls adorned with fabulous New Zealand artworks. Coffee at Homestead Café has become a daily addiction.

What is one of the most interesting reads you’ve come across recently? Why? 
I don’t normally like to read arty books, but Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers really resonated with me. I grew up in the USA at the time of the story’s setting – the 1960s and 70s were such pivotal decades. The author writes very credibly about music and performers’ experiences.

Finish these sentences…

  • For me, good philanthropy is…generous! I wish there were a lot more deep pockets, and I do worry that today’s fabulous arts patrons like Sir James will not be replaced by the next generation.
  • For me, art is important because…it is the human experience. I personally think society will   turn to the arts as an antidote to technology. We will be drawn back to quality and sustained appreciation for things that cannot be expressed in 140 characters or a gif.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I read a lot and fancy myself a novice laser sailor which means I grew up in the desert and have not taken to sailing in my middle age as adroitly as I had anticipated—I get wet. A lot. My husband is a fabulous cook and a great companion so many nights are spent sharing a bottle of red and a nice meal. I go to arts events a couple of times a week—including those in which our son is participating. It’s a full, rich and fun life.

– Thank you Anne.