The STAND (Sustaining Theatre and Dance) Foundation pays tribute to a great South African cultural practitioner and artist, Mike van Graan, who has been the driving force behind the birth of the Foundation, having served as our founding Coordinator since STAND’s inception two years ago. Mike is stepping down from his position as Coordinator and handing the reins over to Tammy Ballantyne, a formidable arts administrator with a reputable track record. Mike will remain with the STAND Foundation, serving as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Mike has been a visionary leader within the organisation and the sector at large, creating a strong foundation for STAND’s work in supporting the theatre and dance community recover from the COVID pandemic. His exceptional flair for strategy, always rooting this in practical projects that impact on the lives of artists, combined with his determination and powerful work ethic, have helped STAND blossom into a notable role-player in the arts and culture space. We have been able to reach hundreds of artists in meaningful ways, providing them with financial support, meaningful activity during lean periods and creative opportunities for development and mentorship. We have also been able to take on large projects such as the building of a Community Arts Centre network in the Western Cape, which has major implications for the future growth of this very important part of the arts ecosystem.
Mike is a skilful networker, who has built strong partnerships between STAND and a variety of players in the sector, which we have leveraged to ensure greater benefits for those working in theatre and dance in South Africa. He has generously given of his time and energy in an extraordinary way, both to the organisation as a whole, and to the many individuals who have been touched by its programmes.
One of the most significant initiatives launched during his tenure has been a leadership training programme for new and emerging cultural leaders. The success of the programme has also formed the bedrock for the STAND Foundation’s constitution of our Board, which represents an inter-generational group of representative members. Mike’s passion and renowned talent as a prolific playwright has also benefited several young playwrights who have looked to the STAND Foundation for guidance and inspiration.
Representing the STAND Foundation in the most generous way, Mike’s vision which led to the birth of the STAND Foundation during the gloomy National Lockdowns, has offered hope, assistance and new direction to many in our sector who had few alternative places to turn to. We are deeply grateful to Mike for his exceptional commitment and dedication to STAND foundation and to the sector as a whole, and we wish him all the best for his sabbatical in Germany. We look forward to his continued engagement with STAND, albeit in a new role as Board member, since he has now handed over the coordinator position to Tammy Ballantyne. Go well, Mike. We wish you only the very best for this next chapter.
- Mike will be a Richard von Weizsaeker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin from 5 September to 19 December 2022. The Fellow aims to provide a platform for dialogue as well as a space for strategic thinking, research and writing. This will be the second time that Van Graan takes up this Fellowship having been invited to do so from September 2016 to May 2017. Among other things, Mike will undertake research and write essays on the relationship between culture (values, beliefs, traditions, etc) and themes such as democracy, human rights, climate change, etc in order to understand and propose strategies that mitigate the adverse impacts of culture on these and vice versa. He will also work on a project under the banner of ‘cultural leadership and change-making’ i.e. developing young leaders who understand the relationship between culture and social transformation and continue to work on a toolkit that helps ‘ordinary’ citizens to contribute to social justice both at a local and global level. He will continue to write creatively on theatre projects, poetry and perhaps a novel.