Howard Rifkin, Chair
Howard has over 30 years’ senior leadership experience in arts management, development, policy and strategy. He was formerly Director of Arts at Arts Council England, North West.
He currently works as an independent arts consultant with local authorities and a diverse range of arts organisations.
Howard joined the Venture Arts board because, in his words:
“I wanted to contribute my skills, knowledge and experience in the arts, coupled with lived experience as a parent of someone with learning difficulties, to support learning disabled people to take a full, creative, productive, respected and valued part in our culture, society and economy – and simply because Venture Arts is a brilliant organisation to be a small part of.”
We benefit greatly from the breadth of Howard’s arts leadership and consultancy experience, around governance, strategic and business planning in the arts – and from his lived experience as a parent.
Steph Graham-Cowle, Deputy Chair
Steph is a Director of international cultural development and training company, Adapt for Arts CIC, and a Director of Good Technologies, which manages GoodCRM, a cloud software solution designed to support the charity sector.
Having enjoyed supporting Venture Arts in a freelance capacity with some fundraising consultancy in 2017, Steph joined the Venture Arts board in 2020. Steph brings vital knowledge of the fundraising landscape to the Venture Arts board, having raised over £12 million for the cultural sector over the course of her career.
Vanda Hagan, Treasurer
Vanda is Head of Tax & Treasury at Manchester International Festival t/a Factory International (formerly MIF). Prior to this role, she worked as Head of Finance at MIF for a number of years. Vanda brings a wealth of experience to the board in arts and charity finance.
Stephen Evans, Secretary
Stephen is a former business owner. He has been board secretary since 2005 and has since provided vital support to ensure the smooth running of board meetings as well as sharing his business expertise.
Michelle has been working in health and social care throughout her working life. In the 1990s-2000s she was involved in transforming (or closing down) long-stay institutional hospitals across the North West, changing attitudes and policy towards learning disabled people, and developing community-based services to support them.
She currently works for Care Quality Commission.
She says “I love being a trustee of Venture Arts… I am proud to make my small contribution by being a part of the conversation and providing support and answers. My role as a Trustee is to be a piece of the platform on which the heavy work of running a centre of excellence for the development of visual arts is accomplished by a senior leadership team. A team who embody high principles, and are active in promoting equality, diversity and human rights and who display professionalism and integrity.”
Atul is the founder and co-owner of Sheila Bird Studio, an independent design studio specialising in brand, architecture and interior design.
We first met Atul when he purchased a series of works by Venture Arts artist Leslie Thompson at The Manchester Contemporary in 2016. He soon became a firm supporter of our work and has connected us to numerous individuals and businesses that have supported us too.
Atul says: “I fell in love with Leslie’s work and when I met him I couldn’t believe how shy he was and I thought ‘Wow, he would never had the chance to share his drawings without the support of Venture Arts’. Then I was asked to join the board, how could I say no!”
“What do I offer the board? In the simplest way I hope my positive outlook removes obstacles and reasons why you shouldn’t do something.”
Tanya Raabe-Webber is a disabled artist. From 2023-26 she is Artistic Director, Visual Arts at disability charity Sense. Alongside this role she continues to develop and support creative practice with many learning disabled artists across the country.
She says “I joined the board of Venture Arts to support the growing community of emerging artists… I offer Venture Arts many years of experience of being a professional disabled artist including mentoring and supporting learning disabled artists to reach their potential.”
Lynn Setterington is a textile artist known for her hand worked quilts and Kantha embroidery. She has been working in textiles in the international arena for over three decades and her practice celebrates the ordinary, overlooked and hidden in today’s society. Her work is held in many public and private collections.
In the last twenty years she has co-ordinated large-scale commissions and public engagement projects using embroidery and quiltmaking, and worked with groups across culturally diverse backgrounds.
Lynn is also a senior lecturer at the Manchester School of Art.
She says: “I joined the Venture Arts team because I am passionate about art, and as a maker I know the value of creativity as an accessible resource for everyone. I have followed their progress over many years and am keen to encourage and develop further such an inspiring and caring community.”