New CoCA director

Paula Orrell is the new Director and Principal Curator for the Centre of Contemporary Art.
Paula Orrell is the new Director and Principal Curator for the Centre of Contemporary Art. CoCA has been closed since the February 2011 earthquake and is set to reopen in Spring.

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CoCA has officially appointed Paula Orrell as the new Director & Principal Curator. She will be responsible for developing and leading the gallery’s programme of exhibitions, projects and events.

CoCA has officially appointed Paula Orrell as the new Director & Principal Curator. She will be responsible for developing and leading the gallery’s programme of exhibitions, projects and events.

The Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) gallery on Gloucester Street has been closed since the February 2011 earthquake for major strengthening and repair work and is set to reopen in Spring this year. Paula Orrell currently based in Plymouth, UK, will move to Christchurch to take up the role of Director & Principal Curator with CoCA next month.

“I am really excited about this opportunity to create a new experience of contemporary art for Christchurch audiences – particularly for people who might not have ever been to a contemporary art show. Good art programmes can stimulate debate and conversations about key issues that affect us all. I’m also looking forward to being exposed to new artists and exploring what this incredible country has to offer through its bourgeoning arts scene,” says Orrell.

“I want CoCA to become a centre of excellence in commissioning and supporting the ideas of artists and I hope to curate an exciting and engaging programme that captures the imagination of people in Christchurch. I last visited Christchurch nine years ago and I can’t wait to come back and get started and for CoCA to launch its first exhibition.”

Orrell brings a wealth of experience to the role. In London she curated exhibitions and commissioned new work for the Barbican Curve Gallery, Beaconsfield, the British Museum. She has also worked as a lecturer, curator and researcher at the London College of Fashion to develop and deliver an MA in Curating; curated and established a new contemporary art programme as curator of the Plymouth Arts Centre; and currently curates and directs a public art programme across South West England called the River Tamar Project.
Chair of CoCA’s Board of Trustees, Kristina Pickford, says the gallery’s closure for four and a half years has been frustrating but has given the Board the opportunity to develop a new vision, which Orrell is the ideal person to lead.

“CoCA has a long and proud history pioneering contemporary art in Christchurch for over 130 years. We’ve used this forced time-out following the quakes to look carefully at CoCA’s future and the Board’s role in that. We’re an independent charitable trust and we need to have meaning and relevance for people today to attract their support and have a healthy future here in Canterbury,” says Pickford.

“We want CoCA to encourage people to think and talk about contemporary life and culture in our rapidly changing city and country and we want to reach out beyond the gallery’s walls to do that. Paula’s experience and passion for bringing art to diverse communities is one of the reasons we’re so excited to have her join us.”

CoCA will encourage people to think and talk about contemporary life and culture in our rapidly changing city and country. Through off-site projects CoCA’s programme will extend beyond the gallery walls to engage with the broadest possible audience. Orrell’s experience and passion, combined with her commitment to bring art to diverse communities, will ensure CoCA is well-positioned to champion contemporary art locally and nationally. She will be assisted in developing CoCA’s exhibition programme by a curatorium of curators from New Zealand and overseas who were selected late last year.

Members of the curatorium are:

Emma Bugden, Senior Curator, The Dowse, Lower Hutt
Gregory Burke, Director of Remai Modern Gallery, Canada
Abby Cunnane, Assistant Director, St PAUL St Gallery, Auckland
Blair French, Assistant Director of Curatorial and Digital, Museum of
Contemporary Art, Sydney
Zara Stanhope, Principal Curator, Auckland Art Gallery

Biography

Paula Orrell is an independent curator with diverse experience across Europe, China and the UK. For the past 15 years, she has championed and created new roles for the visual arts. Paula studied fine art at Sheffield Hallam University and then received an MA in Creative Curating from Goldsmiths College, London. She spent six years as the Curator at Plymouth Arts Centre, which she put firmly on the cultural map, transforming a regional arts centre into an internationally acclaimed venue by commissioning radical and significant artists. In Plymouth, Paula developed Take A Part, a socially engaged public art programme in partnership with the Plymouth City Council. She is also a director of Alias, an independent artists development programme that mentors individuals and groups. Most recently, Paula designed, developed and was the artistic director of the River Tamar Project, a contemporary public art programme and festival at Plymouth University. It is a biannual programme that explores the significant history of the area, linking three distinct regions across a significant river.

Paula has worked with a diverse range of well-known artists and helped to establish the careers of many younger artists, to name a few: Marina Abramovic, Lucy Orta, Roy Ascott, John Akomfrah, Melanie Manchot, Tom Dale, Cadu, and Ultra Red. The Director of the Tate, Sir Nicholas Serota, has praised Paula for her excellent programme, including works that went on to show at much bigger galleries. "It shows how relatively small organisations can be fleet of foot. You can have new ideas, break new ground and show the way to big organisations."

About CoCA

CoCA, formerly known as the Canterbury Society of Arts, was established in 1880. The Society moved into its current gallery on Gloucester Street in 1968 and was renamed CoCA in 1996. CoCA has been shut since the February 2011 earthquake and is set to reopen in Spring 2015.

Media Release: Centre of Contemporary Art 
10/04/2015

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

13 Apr 2015

The Big Idea Editor

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