Lara Thoms is the co-founder and community director of ArtsPay, created to use payments processing to support the arts.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I have worked in the arts sector for over fifteen years, taking on roles producing for Australian festivals like Next Wave and Dark Mofo, whilst making my own performance work.
I began with an arts company APHIDS ten years ago as an artistic associate and am now co-CEO/artistic director. This allows me to lead a small team and make performance work for touring locally as well as to festivals around the world.
Fifteen months ago I began Artspay with Marc Goldenfein and Alistair Webster in response to the effects of COVID in the arts sector. We are the only payments processing company with a mission for social good and are now fully operational.
Every transaction supports the arts through our not for profit foundation. As the co-founder and community director I ensure we work with great partners and find the best ways to build our foundation.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I am lucky enough to have a workspace at Collingwood Yards – a hub of art galleries, studios, arts businesses and bars! My day might begin with a meeting with the co-founders to look through potential partners, updates on current relationships and strategies for how to build our reach.
I then might meet with a prospective partner, which can range from a tiny retailer to a major online business and everything in between. In the afternoon I might meet with my researcher and independent artists to talk through the gaps in arts funding and accessible methods for giving.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes – ArtsPay co-founders are not based in the same city so we have always worked remotely and flexibly. I also have a child and an arts practice, so flexibility is essential!
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It’s hard to find that balance when things are flexible and your home can be your office. For me it is not expecting immediate responses from my teams and trying not to send work communications on weekends. Being able to see arts projects in my community is also essential which I believe counts as work and pleasure.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
The pandemic and founding a startup has created lots of new and unusual routines! I have decided I only drink coffee from one cafe that requires a 15 minute walk and ensures I get out of the ‘office’. I also started going to the gym before work when possible and having friends over to watch Succession every week.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Aphids has a podcast called APHIDS LISTENS where we interview an artist about a work they have made and another artist’s work they love. I always love reading the newsletters of arts orgs big and small – and I have FOMO when I miss arts events.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I’d hope I can live without many of these things! For ArtsPay we use Slack, Hubspot and Asana which are super useful.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Maybe Fiona Winning, Head of Programming at Sydney Opera House. Fiona supported me early in my career and I am consistently impressed by her ongoing leadership in the arts.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
It feels like post pandemic, work is becoming more responsive and flexible, but that shouldn’t stop us from creating boundaries to ensure we get proper leisure time and space to care for one another.
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