Rachael Parsons is the new Director at New England Regional Art Museum, taking over from Robert Heather. FOCUS would like to formally introduce the community to Rachael and the plans she has for the future …
Tell us about your new role.
I have been appointed as the Art Museum Director of New England Regional Art Museum. I am responsible for managing staff, strategic planning, and the overall concept of the museum. I work with NERAM’s board, staff and community and make the important decisions about the direction the museum will take.
NERAM has a small, excellent team of staff, and we all wear many hats over the course of a day. For me, that includes planning and project management, marketing, fundraising and writing grant proposals, curating, engaging with our community, making speeches at events, lots of meetings, and the list goes on. It can feel very frenzied, but I enjoy the challenge of a hustling pace and being involved in all the different areas of NERAM’s operations.
What plans do you have for NERAM?
Over the past two years I have been at NERAM in the role of Manager, Exhibitions and Curatorial and have been fortunate be involved in a wave of development and growth that I think has really established a sense of momentum and enthusiasm at the museum. I want to keep that momentum going and to build upon it in new ways. We have more plans to improve the building and expand what the museum can support in terms of events and engagement spaces.
HINTON: Treasures of Australian Art has been a tremendous recent achievement for NERAM. It presents 103 works from our seminal Howard Hinton Collection and is a beautiful salon hang. This has addressed a long-standing need to have a permanent display of some or our most significant and popular artworks, and we have had such a resounding positive response. This does now give us an opportunity to focus on other aspects of our collection, including the Coventry Collection and ensuring that NERAM is showing modern and contemporary art and that we are being responsive to recent practice and developments.
One of the key things I would like to delve into is how we engage with our New England community and the many groups that it includes. Our current exhibition, Myall Creek and beyond provided a critical opportunity to engage with this region’s history and Indigenous communities, and I would like to ensure that engagement continues to grow in meaningful ways. We have also started to explore how the museum can work with the newly settled refugees in Armidale, to provide opportunities for cultural and social exchange. These kinds of programs can have significant benefits for the cultural life of the region that then can also attract national visitors and tourism.
What is the best part of your new role?
So far it has been the support and faith of NERAM’s community and having so many people talk to me about how they have been enjoying the recent events and the museum and their hopes and ideas for the future. We have such a passionate group of people who volunteer at NERAM or visit on a regular basis. Some have been involved from the very beginning of the museum being established, and they know all of the stories and history.
What will you miss about your last role?
Curating is, in my opinion, the most fun one can have working in a gallery. I love interacting with artists, doing research and designing how an exhibition is going to look and be experienced by the audience. I have always enjoyed solving the creative challenges that pop up and the teamwork involved in developing an exhibition from concept to the opening event. Exhibitions can mean a lot to people, and they facilitate experiences and conversations that range from entertainment through to cultural activism. I have always enjoyed being a part of that process. Luckily now that I am Director, I do not have to give up this aspect of my work completely. I intend to ensure that one of the many hats I wear will include curating, at least from time to time.
Tell us about some of the events coming up at NERAM.
We have so many exciting programs coming up at NERAM … it really never stops. Our next opening is UNESAP Let’s Hang It! Which is our annual student art prize that we present in partnership with the University of New England. We received more than 500 entries from students from over 60 schools across the region. Our selection panel had the difficult responsibility of choosing just 65 of the very best works to be hung as finalists in the exhibition. On July 27th at the opening event, the museum will be filled with young artists and their families anticipating the announcement of the winners.
In August we will also present Piksa Niugini – New Guinea portraits and diaries by Stephen Dupont, an exhibition of photographic works and diaries created during his many trips to Papua New Guinea over the past decade, and I think this will be very impacting exhibition.
If the community could help in any way, what would you ask of them?
Get involved, in whatever way makes sense to you. Come and see an exhibition or participate in an event that interests you. Become a member. If you have some spare time, then we are always looking for new volunteers who contribute to NERAM in so many vital ways. If you like your experiences with us, then tell your friends or bring them with you on your next visit.
Any final words?
See you soon at NERAM.