Claire Spencer Tells Us Her Time As Chief Executive Officer Of ACM And Upcoming Events


Our people are invaluable to our success. Their skills, knowledge and expertise help provide the inspiration, vision, creativity and motivation that gives life to everything we do. Arts Centre Melbourne prides itself on being an organisation that fully recognises, acknowledges and values the vital contribution our teams make to our success. Claire Spencer AM is the Chief Executive Officer of ACM and my special guest as Claire once again returns to 3KND.

During her first five years as CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne, Claire steered the organisation toward financial stability, securing work for thousands of artists, technical crews and arts workers as the four indoor venues, iconic outdoor Sidney Myer Music Bowl, and cafes returned to operating at near to full capacity. Throughout this period she positioned the organisation to lead a major redevelopment that is the centrepiece of a $1.4+ billion transformation of the Melbourne Arts Precinct. Reimagining Arts Centre Melbourne will include the full refurbishment of the nearly 40-year-old Theatres Building and the addition of a new campus, the Centre for Creativity, which will house a permanent and expanded Australian Music Vault and major new gallery celebrating Australia’s performing arts history. In 2020-21, faced with her biggest challenge yet, Claire has led the organisation through the twists, turns and disruption of a global pandemic, with Arts Centre Melbourne’s response informed by its values of care more, creativity, leadership, community and the recently added value of equity.

Her leadership through this period has modelled the art of adaptation and has included the launch of a new digital program, Together With You, that more than 20 million people engaged with, and new seasonal programming that followed a year dominated by pandemic-related restrictions. The recent four-month COVIDSafe Live at the (Sidney Myer Music) Bowl season helped to bring people back to the city, created work for more than 3,000 artists and production, security, and food and beverage workers, and contributed $27.26 million to the state’s economy, as well as helping to set Arts Centre Melbourne on the road to recovery. With a long-held commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of her team and the wider live performance sector, Claire was instrumental in setting up the Arts Wellbeing Collective in 2016, which has grown to be a national member body of 400+ organisations, providing invaluable and sought-after resources for an industry deeply impacted by the pandemic. Throughout this recent period Claire also began a process of organisational reform following widespread consultations across the sector and beyond. Resulting in a renewed focus working with First Nations people, and on equity and inclusion, digital and technology, which are now at the heart of a transformation that will position the business for a future that is distinct, relevant and sustainable. As part of her commitment to equity and inclusion, Claire has been a board member of the Pinnacle Foundation since 2017, supporting and providing opportunities for LGBTIQ+ youth. She was appointed Chair in July 2021.

She believes in the power of mentoring and continues her life-long learning by being both a mentor and mentee. She lives the adage of “bring your whole self” to work and encourages her colleagues to do the same. Claire and her team’s work through the Arts Wellbeing Collective has been recognised numerous times with awards, and in 2020, Claire was honoured to be awarded an Order of Merit for her services to community in the performing arts. Claire has been a Member of Chief Executive Women since 2015. She is a member of several other industry groups, including the Australian Government’s Australia-Singapore Arts Group. In June 2020 she was invited to the Board for the Committee for Melbourne joining business, academic and civic sector leaders to help shape a better future for Melbourne. She lives with her husband, three children and two dogs on Kulin land.