Call to re­place ‘ the JT of art’

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - BETTINA WAR­BUR­TON bettina.war­bur­ton@news.com.au

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.”

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