Advance Awards 2021: Introducing the Commercial Creatives Award Finalists

Suhanya Raffel

Suhanya Raffel is a cutting-edge Australian Museum Director. She works internationally to secure the history and recognition of artists across song, dance, art, literature, film, photography, design, architecture and ‘everything that is just good in the world’. Born in Sri Lanka, at 14 Ms Raffel moved to Australia with her family. After studying art history at the University of Sydney she worked at the Tate in the UK. She returned to spend 20 years forging her career in curatorial positions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, where she was instrumental in building the contemporary Asia Pacific collection and eventually rising to deputy director. Ms Raffel is known as an inspiration to women in the sector globally, currently holding the presitigous role of Museum Director at Hong Kong’s M+ public gallery, a major new museum of contemporary visual culture boasting an impressive 65,000 square meter space, the biggest cultural infrastructure project under construction anywhere in the world.

Ms Raffel’s contribution to global arts scene extends beyond her current role. She is also a Trustee of the Geoffrey Bawa Trust and the Lunuganga Trust, Sri Lanka. She is on the Board of CIMAM, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art, a member of the BIZOT group, and previously was a member of the Asian Art Council at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. To recognise her accomplishments, Suhanya was made a Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 2020. Her connections and influence on the global arts scene through these roles will ensure diverse and Australian views continue to inform the cultural landscape in Asia. Ms Raffel is, at once, courageous and realistic about her stewardship role promoting freedom of artistic expression within one of the world’s most active geopolitical fault lines. She remains focused on her belief that public institutions are an important part of the storytelling and remembering, allowing citizens to ‘see who we are’.

“I became part of the museum world because I was so convinced that we needed to champion, now more than ever, the work of artists and creative makers.”

Sam Levy

Sam Levy is the Managing Partner of Trumper Park, a New York based theatrical production and consulting firm. Sydney-born, and University of New England-schooled, Mr Levy is an award-winning Broadway and West End theatre producer who has done much for the Australian theatre scene and its writers and artists. Mr Levy is a fierce advocate for Australians in the industry, meeting with hundreds of artists who arrive in New York seeking advice and counsel. He has produced several Australian plays on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in the West End and has a stellar track record of identifying and connecting emerging talent. He himself is a Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk and Drama League Award winner and as the former Director of Programming at the New York Summer Play Festival, an acclaimed incubator of new plays and musicals at the award-winning Public Theatre. He has helped many artists go on to receive accolades and nominations for the Oscar, Tony, Olivier, Emmy, and Golden Globe, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Mr Levy has mentored several Australian theatre companies with his knowledge of industry dynamics and is always available to Australian playwrights who are trying to establish themselves overseas. Many have received productions on Broadway, off-Broadway, regionally and internationally, and have developed projects with major film and television companies. House of Cards, Quiara Alegria Hudes (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama), The Newsroom, and Tween Hobo all got their first New York shows thanks to Mr Levy. He recently co-produced The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth; a play which was awarded Best New Play at the 2019 Tony Awards. He was part of the production team that brought new musical, SIX, to Australia in 2020, and has recently opened the musical Come From Away in Melbourne.

“There are gatekeepers at every entry point to this industry, and it’s incredibly disheartening to be consistently told why you can’t or won’t be able to break in. Ignore them, and stay focused it’s important to be able to tell the gatekeepers why they should unlock the gate for you.”

Derek Muller

Derek Muller is revered as a millennial science communicator. Combining his love of science and film, Mr Muller created the Youtube channel Veritasium, a pioneering learning platform that has gone viral on social media and is now used by teachers in classrooms around the globe. Mr Muller has a Ph.D. in Physics Education Research from the University of Sydney as well as studying engineering.  He honed his craft as a former teacher and previously hosted the Australian PBS series Uranium. Today, Mr Muller has made science accessible to the masses and inspired a generation of curious minds to get involved in critical thinking, as well as influencing educators and educational researchers to communicate in more engaging ways. Mr Muller has been published internationally, is well regarded as an international personality for ‘science geeks’ everywhere and, at 39 years of age, regularly rates amongst the top five science communication YouTubers internationally. With more than nine million subscribers and nearly half a billion views, Mr Muller has co-produced shows with the most recognised science communicators in the world.

Mr Muller’s expertise lies in understanding just how video can be used to transmit knowledge. His mission to popularise physics via the internet sees him using engaging education to encourage people to question their assumptions about the world around them. Embracing environmentalism through his numerous topics, Mr Muller cultivates unique science-themed films that are both entertaining and ask contemplative, open-ended questions to create a dialogue. He won the Streamy Award for Science or Education in 2017 and has hosted award-winning documentaries: Uranium; Twisting the Dragon’s Tail; Digits; and Vitamania for international broadcast networks. Mr Muller was also a correspondent on Netflix’s Bill Nye Saves the World, a host of the Australian science program, Catalyst, as well as Light Speed, a six part documentary series about the Australian Solar Car Race in 2019. He has appeared live on stage with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, Space station commander Chris Hadfield, and he co-hosted the 2017 March for Science on the Washington Mall. He is also the inventor of Snatoms, a molecular modelling kit where the atoms snap together magnetically. This project was successfully funded on Kickstarter in under an hour in 2015, and has been available for sale globally ever since.

“I believe people live better, happier lives when they are lived in accordance with the way the world actually is rather than how it appears to be or how we’d like it to be. And I think science provides the best way of getting to the truth. I am inspired by a quote from Richard Feynman “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”