NEW CHIEF:HOTA Board chair who will oversee further improvements
NEW CHIEF:HOTA Board chair who will oversee further improvements Murray Rix

Hard act to follow, but new chair is not the retiring type

LIKE many people today, retirement for Professor Ned Pankhurst does not mean slowing down so much as following another love, in his case as new HOTA board chair.

Formerly senior deputy vice chancellor of Griffith University, and head of the Gold Coast campus, from June he has taken the HOTA reins from singer, writer, stage and artistic director Robyn Archer AO.

Over three years, Robyn has overseen HOTA's evolution from the Arts Centre Gold Coast to Home of the Arts, and Ned admitted to being "more than a little daunted" to be stepping into her shoes, despite 18 years in management and leadership roles.

But rebranding, creation of the outdoor stage and other strides made over recent years, he said, were just the beginning.

"I foresee a development horizon of at least a decade."

Completing construction, commissioning and opening of the new $60 million gallery is the next step in the City of Gold Coast Cultural Precinct Masterplan, followed by discussion on the future of existing facilities such as the cinemas.

The vertical-format gallery over six levels will be of international standard and is expected to be one of the country's largest and most innovative regional galleries.

Building is due to be completed in late October 2020 for an official target opening in February 2021.

Despite his science-based academic and later management background, the arts have long been a focus of Ned's interest.

Five years ago when asked his views on what the Gold Coast needed if money, time and approvals were no issue, he said one of the first things he would do was "accelerate the creative and performing arts precinct".

He believes the Gold Coast needs to catch up culturally with its population growth, and stop "apologising" for its seaside tourist-based origins and embrace them as we look to the future.

With a population of over 600,000 making us the sixth largest city in Australia, he believes we need to build on the "essential vibrancy and potential" of being a young city, unconstrained by history.

He said Melbourne has already demonstrated that there is no contradiction between being a serious business and educational centre as well as a sophisticated cultural and fun events city, and the Gold Coast can expand on this.

Ned acknowledged that he brings "a different set of skills" to the job of HOTA chair, understanding the demands of a rapidly expanding organisation, having overseen a period of substantial infrastructure growth at Griffith University, which includes a rich arts vein.

Following someone like Robyn with her "artistic vision and sense of authenticity," he said humbly "strengthens my resolve not to muck it up!"

However, he is excited to be part of "a board of very confident and accomplished people with broad experience across the creative and performing arts".

"One of the nice things about being involved in governance is that experts in their field bring you advice to discuss and act on," he said.

"We need to do things that the next generation will thanks us for, not curse us for."

With the growth in the education sector, and increasing numbers of families and elderly moving to the Coast, he admitted HOTA does have a balancing act ahead to cater to varying tastes.

But it plans to provide a mixed program to engage both local and tourist-based audiences of all demographics, and encourage and challenge us to try new experiences and events, broadening our tastes.

"We need to appeal to a broad cross-section, while still ensuring the people who live here and support us have a strong sense of ownership of HOTA as their place," he said.

"I'm happy that this is going to be quite a consuming role, because it is driven by interest.

"I have been 'romanced by the art', but I also have a clear understanding that this is a business which needs to be managed in a professional and sustainable way."

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