Having trouble? Let us help.

Tessitura's Innovator Series

Stepping into the Void: A Courageous Collaboration

Content warning: this talk contains discussion of suicide. Please see below for resources.

Watch Claire's Talk
Headshot of Claire Spencer | Photo credit Mark Gambino

Claire SpencerChief Executive Officer, Arts Centre Melbourne

TitleStepping into the Void: A Courageous Collaboration


Read/View Time14 min

The performing arts is a people-driven business. In order for people to engage, create, and innovate, they need to be well. 

In this talk, Claire Spencer addresses the difficult topic of mental health in the high-pressure world of the performing arts. Shaken by the loss of a young employee, Spencer examined the available resources. While one of the Centre's core values is ‘Care More’ — creating a safe and secure environment for everybody — it felt reactive, rather than preventative. Was the mask of glamour and perfection hiding a broken industry? 

“On reflection, it seems that as a sector, we are good at picking people up when they fall, but not good at stopping them falling in the first place.”

Spencer noted that as a major cultural institution, Arts Centre Melbourne takes their responsibility as a sector leader very seriously. “And with so many issues present,” she asks, "how could we do nothing?” 

Watch Claire’s talk to learn how, with the support of government funding, corporate sponsorship, and philanthropic donations, a consortium of arts and cultural organisations formed a collective with the shared vision to improve mental health and wellbeing for performing arts workers.

Photo courtesy of Arts Centre Melbourne

Content Warning

This talk contains discussion of suicide.

If you are concerned for your own mental health and wellbeing or the mental health and wellbeing of others, please seek support.

Arts Wellbeing Collective website >

In the United States:

National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) 
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273 TALK (8255)

International Association for Suicide Prevention >

Photo courtesy of Arts Centre Melbourne

This talk was recorded live at the Tessitura Learning & Community Conference in Orlando in July 2018

Headshot of Claire Spencer | Photo credit Mark Gambino

Claire Spencer

Chief Executive Officer

Arts Centre Melbourne

Claire Spencer is CEO of Australia’s largest and busiest performing arts centre, Arts Centre Melbourne, a role she has held since November 2014.

Since that time she has steered the organisation through a major restructure to better position the organisation for the future and to assist with its key role as a leader in the cultural precinct and a major contributor to Victoria’s creative economy. Key projects have included: the launch of the ground-breaking Asia Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts (Asia TOPA), delivered in collaboration with more than 30 Victorian organisations from across the cultural sector; the development of the Australian Music Vault; and the establishment of the Arts Wellbeing Collective, which promotes strong individual wellbeing for those who work in the arts sector.

Claire is a Member of Chief Executive Women – the pre-eminent organisation representing Australia’s most senior women leaders from the corporate, public service, academic and not-for-profit sectors; she is on the board of The Pinnacle Foundation, established to provide scholarships and mentoring support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex students who are marginalised or disadvantaged; and is also a member of the Federal Government’s Australia–Singapore Arts Group.

Claire is married with three children.


Show More
A stage with purple lighting. Smoke swirls from a staff held by a person at the center; other figures crouch to the side behind.
light bulb iconInnovator Series

Getting the Marriage Right

Arts & Culture / Business Strategy / Collaboration 22 min

When artistic and administrative teams truly unite on a shared goal, they can achieve powerful outcomes.

Stagehands move a piano across the stage at Arts Centre Melbourne
light bulb iconInnovator Series

Stepping into the Void: A Courageous Collaboration

Arts & Culture / Community Engagement 14 min

Claire Spencer addresses the topic of mental health among performing arts workers in this powerful talk

Torrie Allen on stage at TLCC2018
light bulb iconInnovator Series

Arts Administration as Transformative Creativity

Arts & Culture / Fundraising / Theatre 14 min

In this galvanizing talk, Torrie Allen proposes that by adopting a creative mindset, administrative professionals can find fresh approaches to their work.