Call to replace ‘ the JT of art’
THE city’s reputation as regional Australia’s cultural powerhouse has been compromised by Townsville City Council’s restructure, according to the region’s peak professional arts organisation.
Professional Arts North Queensland president Lorna Hempstead AM said the council’s decision to make Perc Tucker Gallery manager of gallery services Shane Fitzgerald redundant in October last year was “nonsensical”.
“But what is even worse is that nine months on, his role has not been filled,” she said. “This is manifesting itself as a breakdown at a day- to- day level and reducing services the gallery is offering to the public.”
Mr Fitzgerald’s axing was part of a restructure recommended in the Nous Group Review, adopted by the council last September, to drive efficiencies, financial sustainability and more responsive services.
Ms Hempstead said the council needed to appoint “as a matter of urgency” someone to continue the “brilliant” work of Mr Fitzgerald, who has been dubbed “the Johnathan Thurston of art”.
“We are shocked that nothing is happening to replace the previous director with someone of a similar level of professional expertise,” she said.
“The long- term effect of not having that expertise won’t manifest itself for one to two years.
“Without a high- level direc- tor, forward exhibitions, which are negotiated up to four years out, are not being negotiated.
“Also, other galleries that hold quality exhibitions available to tour will not even consider offering them to Townsville when there is no indication that there will be the appropriate level of senior expertise to handle the exhibition at this end.”
Community and Cultural Development Committee chairwoman Cr Colleen Doyle said the council was about to advertise a number of positions, including that of creative director of gallery services.
“I appreciate the passion of our arts community and applaud the fact they are saying we need to keep this issue front and foremost,” she said.
“I also ask, on behalf of council, for some patience.
“The council has undergone its largest transformation … in its history and the gallery is a component of that work.
“( Arts North Queensland) is referring to the gallery alone but this has to be seen in a context of a large organisational reform piece of work.”
Cr Doyle said it was important to acknowledge the “high calibre” of work carried out by gallery staff.
She said the council was committed to maintaining the city’s position as a cultural capital of Australia.
“We are recognised as one of the best regional galleries nationally, and it is a reputation that has been well built over a number of years,” she said.
“The council is committed to maintaining that reputation.”