Gallery director quits

THRILL IS GONE

LOCAL artists look set to lose one of their staunchest advocates following the shock resignation of Tamworth Regional Art Gallery director Sandra McMahon.

CULTURE SHOCK: Tamworth Regional Art Gallery director Sandra McMahon has announced she will resign in August. Photo: Gareth Gardner 030114GGB02

CULTURE SHOCK: Tamworth Regional Art Gallery director Sandra McMahon has announced she will resign in August. Photo: Gareth Gardner 030114GGB02

Mrs McMahon, who earlier this year was named one of the most influential figures in the Australian art scene, has told council she will stand down on August 22.

The resignation is understood to have been prompted by Mrs McMahon’s concerns over changes stemming from an ongoing wide-ranging review of council services.

The falling out comes just months after respected website The Art Life ranked Mrs McMahon the 48th most powerful person in art in the nation.

When contacted by The Leader yesterday, Mrs McMahon said that as she was still a council employee, she did not feel it appropriate to comment at this stage.

Tamworth Regional Council’s general manager, Paul Bennett, said he was “extremely disappointed” at her decision to resign.

“We are devastated,” he said. “She’s an unbelievable gallery director. We hold her in the highest esteem.

“She’s made a commitment that she wants to stay on and do the Tamworth Textile Triennial exhibition, so her resignation isn’t due to take effect until August 22.

“We wish she’d reconsider ... but for whatever reason, she has decided that as part of this change, she no longer wants to work for us.”

Mr Bennett said council has embarked on a comprehensive review of its management structure in a bid to make efficiency savings of up to $2 million a year.

However, he said that even before beginning the process the regional gallery was declared off-limits from any cuts and council fulfilled that promise.

“What we did do was change the management structure,” he said. “But Sandra’s position in the structure hasn’t changed one little bit.

“Nor have her responsibilities, none of her staffing, none of  her funding – nothing around the regional gallery has changed one iota.”

The expected loss of Mrs McMahon has prompted an outcry among artists.Tamworth-raised artist Charmaine Pike, who now lives and works in Sydney, said she regarded Mrs McMahon as both a friend and a mentor.

She said the Tamworth Regional Art Gallery was well-known among the Sydney art scene courtesy of Mrs McMahon’s ability to secure work from quality artists.

“She’s knowledgeable, knows a lot of people, is active in the art world and it would be a massive loss to the region’s art community,” she said.

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