I am an Artist. Thinker. Advocate. My life’s work is in social change through artistic practice — to make a positive contribution to local and global communities — leading with purpose, creating space for connections, platforming a multiplicity of diverse voices, advocating for best practice, gender equity and all forms of diversity. My career encompasses leadership roles in: artistic direction; practice-led artistic research; project management; education, research and training; organisational change management and strategy development; producing annual programs, festivals and events; grant writing; diplomacy; advocacy; and cultural policy.
MY WONDERFULLY ECLECTIC CAREER PATH
My professional work in the arts started while at University of NSW, Australia. I commenced my career in film production; then moving into the performing arts, studying acting at Actors Centre Australia, and working as Australia Council supported Emerging Producer at Sydney Opera House. I was quickly promoted to Assistant Producer, then Performing Arts Producer at Sydney Opera House. During this time I was continually attracted to directing…drawn to the thrill of being in a rehearsal room, coordinating the unique skills and passions of an artistic team, all striving for the same goal of creating transformative audience experiences. I continued my practice-led research with post-graduate directing at National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA).
My career has led me through: working in production, artistic administration, lighting, sound, camera, event and stage management; film production managing TV commercials with $$XMillion budgets, helicopters, stunt cars, children (1,500 of them for Qantas TVCs), animation, motion capture, live rappels from 30 story buildings, wrangling boats and wild animals; shooting short films with $0 budget in jails, on boats, in the air, on mission camps and in the outback; managing 350+ volunteers across 13 venues as medal ceremonies coordinator for Sydney 2000 Olympics; touring regional and international companies of music, theatre, circus and dance; producing & programming for our national icon Sydney Opera House, creating outdoor art installations, intimate cabaret theatre, music and indigenous arts festivals, circus, contemporary dance, physical theatre etc; directing large scale operas with casts of hundreds; writing & creating children’s musicals; French interpreting for Paris Opera Ballet, Sydney & Melbourne Festivals; directing & tour managing for C!RCA Contemporary Circus; Artistic Director of KidsPlay annual program Glen Street Theatre and JIGSAW THEATRE COMPANY; Associate Artistic Director Patch Theatre Company; ARTISTIC DIRECTOR & ARTS MENTOR EMERGE FESTIVAL Australian Institute of Music (AIM); Producer Community & Artist Relations, Sydney Festival; regular guest opera director at Opera Australia; Sydney Conservatorium of Music; Pinchgut Opera; Director in Residence Sasha Waltz & Guests, Berlin; creator of world premiere hybrid dance/opera Project Faust for Kentucky Opera and Louisville Ballet in Kentucky USA; an ARTS LEADER with Australia Council Arts Leadership 2017-18 cohort; an arts advocate I am leading the field in Gender Equity and Diversity in Opera and as a cultural change maker I have led strategic planning as Director on the Board of ArtsNW and Regional Arts NSW. In 2022 I was conferred by The University of Sydney as Dr Sally Blackwood for my PhD practice-led research (Re)Claim the Frame: a rethinking of opera and operatic practice in Australia which analyses the sustainability, viability and evolution of opera in Australia — through the business and power structures, staging practices and educational models — with a view to possible futures for opera in Australia. I am currently a Peer Assessor and Industry Advisor for Creative Australia. Throughout my rich career in creative practice I have maintained an academic and research focus with strong research publication record and a developing profile in traditional and non-traditional research outputs. I am dedicated to mentoring the next generation of creative practitioners through course design, teaching and pushing the boundaries of pedagogy through practice-led research.
BLACKWOOD LOGO – MY FAMILY
My beautiful BLACKWOOD logo is my grandfather’s signature. Leslie Cyril Blackwood (or Certa for short) was my Dad’s father. He was a visual artist. He was a man of the printing trade, a print-engraver, painter and cartoonist. Certa worked for the Royal Australian Army capturing moments on the front line, in army hospitals, and in training. Certa created animated training films for the armed forces, which included one short film warning troupes of the dangers of malaria. My grandfather was a talented man and I am grateful to be able to keep his memory and our family name alive through his signature logo.
I am still investigating the ancestry of my Mother’s family. The more I learn, the more I will be able to connect to my past, be in the present and create into to the future.