Emily is a curator, producer and festival director from Melbourne. She is currently Head of Programming for The Wheeler Centre of Books, Writing and Ideas, and a Sidney Myer Creative Fellow for 2015-16.

From 2010-14 Emily was Artistic Director and co-CEO of Next Wave, Australia’s leading contemporary arts organisation for emerging artists.

For Next Wave, artistic director Emily Sexton has radically rethought the question of what a festival is. The result was an extraordinarily seductive event that generated an almost irresistible gravity.”Alison Croggon, Theatre Notes, May 30 2012

Over 2010-14 Next Wave became a festival of contemporary ideas and debate, as well as a riveting and explosive context for the presentation of outstanding new work by emerging artists. The 2014 Festival posted a 65% rise in paid attendance, and an increase of 50% in ticket sales revenue; its artistic quality was recognised with a Green Room Award nomination for Curatorial Contribution to Contemporary Performance. According to The Age, Emily’s key achievements for Next Wave include diversifying its demographic reach through a radical rethink of an arts festival model. She also expanded the organisation’s representation of culturally diverse practitioners, and achieved substantial increases in funding through strategic partnerships at all levels of government, initiating several international co-commissioning partnerships. Other highlights of her tenure include the publication of two Next Wave Magazines, and Blak Wave: a 100p publication featuring 28 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders exploring the future of contemporary art. Emily also oversaw Next Wave’s online audience quadruple to 20,000+ over 2010-14.

In 2013 Emily was the Artistic Director of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations at the Melbourne Recital Centre. From 2008-10 Emily was Creative Producer for Melbourne Fringe. During this time Emily’s demonstrated her passion for interdisciplinary practice, and seeding provocative collaborations between contemporary artists in Australia and in Asia. This was seen in such projects at 2010’s keynote, Visible City, in collaboration with Martyn Coutts.

Emily’s comprehensive sector knowledge is frequently sought-after by government and philanthropic agencies. She is a regular peer assessor for the Australia Council, Arts Victoria and philanthropic trusts. Recently Emily has been involved in a programming and strategic advisory capacity for City of Gold Coast and City of Melbourne.

Her position as one of Australia’s key cultural thinkers for a new generation has been recognised by the Australia Council (inaugural Emerging Leaders Development Program, 2011) and The Age (Melbourne’s Top 100 Influential, Creative and Inspiring people, 2011). She is a regular public speaker on leadership, festivals and contemporary art; such events include panels with Melbourne Festival (2012), the Global Foundation’s Australia in the Asian Century (2012), Deakin University (2013), Festival Trans Ameriques, Montreal (2013), National Gallery of Victoria (2014), Malthouse Theatre/Melbourne Writer’s Festival (2014) and The Wheeler Centre (2014). Emily has been a guest lecturer for RMIT’s Curatorial Studies (2013-14), and also fills in as a broadcaster on Triple R 102.7FM.

Emily was a Board Member with Theatre Network Victoria from 2009-2014. She currently serves on the board of Arena Theatre Company.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can email hello [at] emilyjsexton.com.



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