21 Jan 2021
It is with sadness that we acknowledge the recent passing of William (Bill) Sheat. It is fitting that the public service for Bill will be at the Embassy Theatre, given Bill’s considerable and important work supporting culture.
We acknowledge Bill’s great passion for arts and culture generally and particularly for his decade of service with the Arts Council between 1967 until 1977.
Bill chaired the Arts Council between 1970 and 1973, as well as the Management Committee from 1972 to 1975 and later served as Deputy Chair.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s the cultural landscape was much thinner than it is now and the Arts Council was making its way to establish the value of the arts in a public and political context that was less supportive than it is now. In its 1969 policy statement the Council recognised that New Zealand’s Cultural Development was only beginning to emerge as an essential element of awareness of nationhood.
So it was a challenging context within which to Chair and govern the Arts Council. Bill and the Board progressed important work over this time, including facilitating the first annual Arts Conference in 1970, and identifying the need for the Council’s legislation to change to give better effect to supporting Māori and Pacific cultural ambitions as well expanding the ‘Creative Film Fund’ and developing the arts infrastructure. Bill’s legal expertise was extremely timely given the work done in repurposing the Arts Council legislation over 1973 and 1974. These changes were seen in the QE 11 Arts Council Act of 1974.
After his service with the Arts Council Bill went on to lend significant support to the film, theatre and dance sectors in key advocacy and governance roles. His underlying philosophy over seven active decades was to enable talented New Zealanders to make their living in the arts. And his role in protecting the Opera House and Embassy Theatre has been well noted since we learned of his passing, a legacy for which we are all richer for.