Since Fiona Sweet, was appointed Creative Director of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale in 2016 she has been enthusiastically drumming up support to ensure her big dreams for the 2017 festival become a reality.
Meeting Fiona, you can’t help but be impressed by her enthusiasm for the Arts, the Ballarat Foto Biennale and indeed for life itself. She speaks rapidly as you’d expect from someone who has taken on a huge task with so many elements in play, especially in light of her ambitions for the Biennale.
Born and bred in Melbourne, Fiona has shown her commitment to the role by moving her weekday residence to Ballarat. At the end
of last year, she bought a renovated church hall, with room for Stella the dog and a virtual revolving door to accommodate the many guests, volunteers and staff from Melbourne who stay overnight, taking advantage of her friendly hospitality. Her husband, artist Paul Newcombe, is occupied Monday to Friday painting in his St Kilda studio, but he and their adult children still like to see her every weekend or so back in the bayside suburb of Elwood. And if work commitments don’t allow a trip down to Melbourne, then sometimes the whole family meet up for a weekend in Ballarat.
“I think it is important that I am part of the community, which is why I decided to move to Ballarat. I get so much more done without commuting from Melbourne and I also get to take advantage of all the great cafes and restaurants in Ballarat,” explains Fiona.
Fiona Sweet is a lifelong advocate of the Arts, including board roles with organizations such as Melbourne Fringe, Chamber Made Opera, Shir Madness Music Festival, a founding co- director of Acland Street Projection Festival 2015 and Director of Sweet Creative design agency. Her experience promises the festival will emerge a winner and move toward being Australia’s premier photographic event.
The biggest challenge facing any arts organisation is funding, Fiona has door knocked and bombarded inboxes all to encourage sponsors and donors to “dig deep”. The Biennale website offers opportunities to donate, volunteer or become a friend of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale.
“I am very thankful to our wonderful and generous donors and sponsors so far, but a project as big and wide-ranging as the Foto Biennale can’t survive on just goodwill and passion. We need cash donations to pay the artists, curators and technical staff. That’s really how we support the arts,” said Sweet.
Fiona has been appointed to direct three festivals with the 2017 event being the first. As the festival is bi-annual, Fiona will be a welcome resident of Ballarat for at least the next six years and it’s certain she will be a great asset to the ongoing arts scene in this city known for it’s artistic achievements. Melbourne’s loss is sure to be Ballarat’s gain.