Starting work in an unfamiliar city may be daunting for some but for Jamie Smith, the new general manager at Courthouse ARTS, it’s a welcome change. “I love the fact that I know a little bit about Geelong but not too much. It’s like an adventure, and that’s why I love travelling so much,” Jamie says. “I’ve moved to cities that I’ve known nothing about, so this feels like another adventure.”
Whilst Jamie is new to Geelong and has a lot to discover, he’s taking it upon himself to uncover the inner workings of the city. “I don’t want to taint my image of what Geelong actually is. I want to experience that for myself so that I’m not being swayed by anyone else’s opinions,” he says.
After growing up going to drama schools and finishing a degree in theatre and drama, Jamie quickly found himself making friends with guys from the Fruit Fly Circus. “I had no coordination whatsoever, so I wasn’t going to join the circus. But I started getting into production, stage and event management,” he says. “I then discovered that I was a much better director and producer than an actor. So that’s how I kind of ended up in arts management.”
Jamie soon moved on to working for local government, finishing up recently at Wyndham City, whilst fitting in some hospitality and events management in the gaps. “I’ve been a bit of a gypsy,” Jamie says.
Jamie seems to thrive off working in exciting new locations, and Geelong is just one small addition to his growing list. He has worked at a nightclub and theatre in London, worked for a fashion label in Toronto, and as part of the cast and crew for Priscilla. He also had a few minor roles in Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Stingers, TV commercials, and as an actor with Opera Australia.
There’s no denying that Jamie has a phenomenal amount of experience in a variety of different industries. Courthouse ARTS are lucky to have him, and Jamie is looking forward to what he can achieve at the venue. “The building’s amazing and it’s really great to come back to being responsible for a building which is always the epicentre of any activity,” Jamie says.
His first port of call is to ensure that Courthouse ARTS is an inclusive venue and that they are welcoming all types of people, no matter what your background is. “It’s not arts for a certain sector of the community; it’s meant to be there for the whole community. But it still needs to be a contemporary arts experience,” he says.
But before Jamie does anything he needs to sit back and take a look at the venue as a whole, to truly be able to do justice to Courthouse ARTS and give the Geelong people what they need. “I’ll be reviewing what we’ve done, where are the challenges and where are the gaps, where have our successes been and then build a five-year development strategy around where we’re going next,” he says.
While Jamie is making changes to one part of the arts scene in Geelong, he has full respect for what Courthouse ARTS and Geelong as a whole have already achieved. “Back to Back Theatre are doing amazing things and have been for years, and GPAC have been doing great programs for a really long time as well,” he says.
Written by Amanda Sherring