New director for Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery

Joe Hill, the new director of the Towner
Joe Hill, the new director of the Towner

Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery has appointed a new director.

Joe Hill, who has been director of Focal Point Gallery in Southend-on-Sea since 2013, will take up the post in early March 2018.

Originally trained as an artist, Joe has more than ten years’ experience working as a director, curator and project coordinator for visual arts organisations, public commissioning and directly with artists.

This experience has been cultivated through working with high-profile arts institutions including Camden Arts Centre, Firstsite, Modus Operandi public art consultancy and internationally as part of the Venice Biennale.

During Joe’s time at Focal Point Gallery, it has been described by the Evening Standard as ‘one of the most vital galleries in the UK’, and by The Guardian as ‘a ground-breaking gallery’.

In July 2017, the gallery opened its second site, Twenty One, positioned at the heart of Southend’s famous seafront and has also successfully secured capital funding to redevelop an old seafront hotel into artists’ studios.

A spoWorking alongside Towner’s team and board of trustees, Joe will work closely with key stakeholders including Eastbourne Borough Council and Arts Council England to build upon Towner’s pioneering work providing accessible, enriching cultural experiences for its visitors as well as playing a central role in the cultural and social life of Eastbourne and the surrounding area.

This vision will include expanding the gallery’s already successful commercial and fundraising activities with a view to becoming more financially independent at a time when the gallery, like many similar arts organisations, faces a cut in local authority funding.

Speaking about his appointment, Joe said, “I am very much looking forward to working with the team at Towner to strengthen the gallery’s position as a world-class centre for art and culture.

“I feel passionately that everyone should have the opportunity to experience great art in their own town. Through engaging and relevant exhibitions and learning activities, I believe the gallery can be a starting point for inspiration, aspiration and discussion in the community.”

Towner’s Chairman, broadcaster David Dimbleby, said, “As a Trust, we are delighted to be welcoming Joe to Towner and to Eastbourne.

“His passion, entrepreneurial vision and experience of working with stakeholders to embed a public art organisation into the local community of a coastal town made him a natural choice for the role.

“We look forward to working with Joe at this pivotal time for the gallery, to build upon the success of our first four years as an independent charitable trust.”

Towner was founded in 1920 with a bequest of 22 paintings and a sum of money by Alderman John Chisholm Towner to create ‘an art gallery for the people’.

After outgrowing its original building, the gallery moved into a purpose built state of the art building in 2009 and moved away from the local authority in 2014, becoming an independent charitable trust.

Now a widely celebrated and influential centre for the visual arts with a collection of more than 5,000 works, Towner welcomes more than 150,000 visitors a year and works with more than 10,000 people of all ages annually through its learning and outreach programme.

The gallery receives core funding from Eastbourne Borough Council and from Arts Council England through their National Portfolio Organisation scheme which has been renewed for the four years up to 2022.

Towner’s current exhibitions include the latest Arts Council Collection National Partner Exhibition A Green and Pleasant Land: British Landscape and the Imagination 1970s to Now, as well as a solo exhibition by Jessica Warboys entitled ECHOGAP.

Forthcoming exhibitions include We stared at the Moon from the centre of the Sun: Haroon Mirza curates the Arts Council Collection which opens on January 19, Andy Holden and Peter Holden: Natural Selection, opening on February 3 and Inhabit, curated entirely from the gallery’s extensive collection of historic, modern and contemporary art, opens on February 17.