26/11/2018 Lakeland Arts announces new Chief Executive

23 November 2018

Lakeland Arts announces new Chief Executive

Rhian Harris will join in February 2019

Rhian Harris, after a decade as Director of The V&A Museum of Childhood, will join Lakeland Arts as its new Chief Executive.

She takes over from retiring Gordon Watson who has led Lakeland Arts for eight years.

Lakeland Arts has a portfolio of galleries and museums in the Lake District - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Venues are Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry (in Kendal), Blackwell The Arts & Crafts House in Bowness-on-Windermere, and soon-to-open Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories.

Rhian joins the organisation as it enters the most significant period in its history with the opening of Windermere Jetty in spring 2019. The world class Museum will significantly increase visitors to Lakeland Arts’ attractions and create jobs.

Rhian said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be appointed Chief Executive of Lakeland Arts, building on the amazing work accomplished by my predecessor, Gordon Watson.

“I’m thrilled to be working with such high quality and diverse arts, cultural and heritage sites and collections, within the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site of the Lake District.

“The opening of Windermere Jetty and the development of Abbot Hall present unique opportunities to transform Lakeland Arts and build on its reputation as one of the most important arts organisations in the North.

“I’m committed to making Lakeland Arts matter more to a wider range of people, developing deeper connections with our audiences and stakeholders and to creating programmes that respond to their needs.”

During Rhian’s Directorship at V&A Museum of Childhood she led a period of transformation with vibrant exhibition programmes and outstanding engagement work with local communities.

Prior to that she was Director at the Foundling Museum and started her museums career at the Wellcome Trust.

Educated at the University of Essex where she graduated with a BA in Art History and Theory, Rhian went on to complete a Masters in Museum and Gallery Management.

Lakeland Arts’ outgoing Chief Executive Gordon Watson will retire as Rhian takes up the post in February.

Gordon Watson said: “I am delighted that the Trustees have appointed Rhian Harris as my successor. Rhian led a period of inspirational change and development in her ten years as Director of the V&A Museum of Childhood, more than doubling visitor numbers and embedding the Museum in the local community.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Lakeland Arts as the organisation looks forward to opening Windermere Jetty in spring 2019 and redeveloping Abbot Hall Art Gallery in time for its 60th anniversary in 2022.”

Martin Ainscough, Lakeland Arts’ Chair of Trustees, added: “Rhian joins us at an extremely important time for Lakeland Arts. She brings strong leadership, an enthusiasm for our collections and an energy and ambition to take Lakeland Arts venues to a wider audience.

“Over the last eight years Gordon Watson has transformed Lakeland Arts in so many ways, not least in forming a strong team which Rhian will lead. As chair of the Trustees I am delighted that she is joining us.”

Rhian is originally from Wales. Outside of work she enjoys reading, horse-riding, walking, browsing food markets, performing arts, films, art & design and gardens.

She added: “I have a deep belief in the restorative power of nature and I’m very much looking forward to discovering the unique quality of the Lake District. I shall feel very much at home with the rain and sheep.”


Notes to editors:

For further information contact Dickie Felton dfelton@lakelandarts.org.uk or  kclegg@lakelandarts.org.uk. An image can be found in Dropbox here: https://www.dropbox.com/home/Lakeland%20Arts%20Press%20Images/Lakeland%2...

Lakeland Arts:
Lakeland Arts has a portfolio of galleries and museums in the Lake District. It’s venues are Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House. A new museum: Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories will open spring 2019. www.lakelandarts.org.uk

Abbot Hall Art Gallery:
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal opened in 1962. It has built up an outstanding collection and a strong reputation for showing exhibitions of national and international artists of the highest quality. In 2018 it showed work ranging from Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin to contemporary artists Elisabeth Frink and Alison Watt. The gallery and surrounding es-tate will undergo a major redevelopment planned to start in 2020. www.abbothall.org.uk

Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry:
Abbot Hall also houses the Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry in the former coach house and stables. The Museum opened in 1971. Immerse yourself in Lake District history, discover the region’s past in farming, mining and tanning. Find out about Swallows and Amazons author Arthur Ransome and stroll down a Victorian Street. The Museum also has a regular programme of exhibitions. www.lakelandmuseum.org.uk

Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House:
Blackwell is situated in Bowness-on-Windermere and is architect MH Baillie Scott's greatest house. Built as a Lake District rural holiday retreat for the Manchester brewery owner, Sir Edward Holt, today it is an outstanding example of an Arts & Crafts House. Retaining most of its original decorative features. It is a perfect setting for exhibitions of historical and contemporary craft. www.blackwell.org.uk

Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories:
Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories will open in spring 2019. Designed by Carmody Groarke architects, this will be a new world-class museum in a stunning setting on Windermere and will display an internationally important collection of boats which are all associated with lake Windermere. Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is the major funder for the Museum. HLF grants are made possible by National Lottery players. The project is also supported by Regional Growth Fund and Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund. www.windermerejetty.org

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