Lakeland Arts appoints new Chief Executive

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.”

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