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The Hot Seat with Jo Thomas


It's an exciting time for ARTRAGE and FRINGE WORLD as our new CEO Jo Thomas is now in office! We asked Jo for the inside scoop on what she is most excited for in her new role with us.

1. What are you most looking forward to about working at ARTRAGE?

I’m excited by the broad range of activities, artists and activations that make up the magic of ARTRAGE.

The organisation is famous for FRINGE WORLD and Rooftop Movies, but there is so much depth to the team and so much potential for us to offer more to the West Australian cultural calendar. The team are incredibly experienced and creative, and I can’t wait to start developing more ideas with them and offering more to the community. Look out Perth!

2. What are you most looking forward to about living in Perth?

I’ve been here a few weeks now and am already in love with the natural landscape. I’ve lived in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, so adding another amazing capital city to my “I’ve-lived-there resume” is thrilling.

I’m looking forward to the chance to explore every nook and cranny and getting to know some new people. I’ve travelled over on my own so I’m open to every adventure. I’ve promised myself to say YES to every invitation in the first two months!

3. What arts and festival experience are you bringing to ARTRAGE? 

I have a background in performance across theatre, film and TV and making new contemporary work, but I’ve also worked as a producer and programmer for CIRCA, Brisbane Festival, Bleach* Festival on the Gold Coast and QMF (previously Queensland Music Festival).

I was the inaugural producer on Brisbane Festival Theatre Fringe which morphed to become Under the Radar, focusing on presenting edgy independent work. Most recently I’ve been heading up the mighty Metro Arts in Brisbane which is a producer and presenter of new contemporary work across all genres of performance; and also visual art.

I have a particular love for site-specific activations and public art and dance and contemporary circus; and believe in the power of artists and their work. I’m also not afraid to tackle unusual areas through an arts lens. I developed and directed “DeathFest” - the first arts and culture festival of its kind in Australia.

Questions of mortality were brought into the everyday with ephemeral artwork in laneways, a Wine n Die dinner event, the public projection of work from Australian Indigenous artist Judy Watson, World premieres of new performance work, on the couch sessions and death story-telling slams sitting alongside more traditional key-note speakers and forums.

4. With your history of being a producer and artistic director, what opportunities do you see for artists and participants in FRINGE WORLD?

Festivals such as FRINGE WORLD offer vital opportunities for communal life, relaxation, connection, and entertainment.

ARTRAGE can continue to be a cultural nexus where artists, audiences, creative work and practices converge; and an open access Fringe is vital to the democracy of artistic expression. However, I’m also interested in new initiatives and ways to extend the artistic offerings of FRINGE WORLD.

I have an eye for new artists who will make exceptional work, an ability to launch surprising ideas ahead of their time, and a passion for city transformations and connection with community and diverse artists. I look forward to bringing all of this to FRINGE WORLD.

I’m also interested to extend pathway programs for artists, launch new unique artistic interventions and extend inclusivity and engagement initiatives with diverse artists. I’ve been a fierce advocate for Australian independent artists for many years and will continue to look for new and better ways of working with our artists.

I am passionate about developing more inclusive spaces and places for participation by audiences beyond those we are already reaching; and will be bringing all this passion to my work at ARTRAGE.

5. What are you excited to bring to Perth and ARTRAGE?

ARTRAGE has a core Vision to embed arts in the hearts and minds of all West Australians and a drive to surprise and delight and I’m excited by that as a Vision.

Culture, creativity and arts surround and envelop us – whether we’re aware of it or not. Creativity tells us who we are as a people, as a community – what we value, how we tell our stories past and present and how we might move forward together. Great cities tell stories at all times, it whispers through the streets and neighbourhoods; and it's this authentic storytelling that attracts tourists and visitors whilst also supporting our local community, boosting night-time economy, broadening our horizons and our education and attracting and retaining talent to all sectors.

I’m interested to dive into this great city of Perth and see what other creativity we can uncover and showcase and continue to tell the vital stories. Creativity is alive and living, challenging, experimental and diverse and it’s all of us. ARTRAGE is here to help bring that creativity forward and support artists and audiences alike.

The dreaming and creation of a better future is something I value deeply and believe art and artists can make a significant contribution. I will be working with this wonderful team to do this through ARTRAGE’s programs, festivals, pop-ups and installations.

6. Is there anything you would like to say to our wonderful donor community, or anyone thinking of donating to ARTRAGE?

Well firstly I say thank you!

Philanthropy just means giving. And this might be giving in terms of cash but also in terms of your time and support. Coming to shows, volunteering, donating with a ticket purchase, helping spread the word about all ARTRAGE does, bringing friends along to events and activations. This is all giving; and we appreciate it all. Everyone who gives to ARTRAGE becomes part of our family and assists us in our Vision to embed arts in the hearts and minds of all. I encourage everyone to join us on this journey – it's a very fun one at ARTRAGE!