Could not refuse job at 'amazing' gallery

New Dunedin Public Art Gallery director Cam McCracken. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
New Dunedin Public Art Gallery director Cam McCracken. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
New Dunedin Public Art Gallery director Cam McCracken followed his heart and art to move south.

"I couldn't say no when the opportunity came up to come to Dunedin. It's a chance to work at one of the most important galleries in New Zealand. So, I jumped at the chance," he said on Friday.

"Dunedin is renowned for being a city that is very supportive of the arts."

Mr McCracken (42) started his new job two weeks ago, after leaving his position as director of the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt.

"I loved the Dowse and I only left because I couldn't turn this down. This gallery is an amazing institution. It has an incredible collection which spans from the historic to the contemporary.

"It is very strong in both areas. The building is one of the best gallery spaces in the country. The location is second to none.

"It's fantastic that it's right in the heart of the city. It's such an incredibly strong gallery. I can't wait to get started," he said.

"It is an opportunity to improve and that's the case with everything. The traditional relationship galleries have with visitors is being expanded through digital technology and we can now have a dialogue conversation with visitors throughout the country and on a global scale.

"My interest is where art and people meet and that will be where I'm throwing my focus. It's a two-way conversation. It's about keeping up with people's expectations and how they consume what we offer.

"I'm also looking forward to cementing the already strong relationship the gallery has with the university and art school," he said.

"There will be challenges. Traditionally, one of the biggest challenges for art has been funding. Like everybody, we're having to do more with less."

Mr McCracken was born in Iran and grew up in Auckland, before studying sculpture at the Canterbury School of Fine Arts and design at the Auckland University of Technology.

He was the executive director of Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts in Auckland and worked at the Waikato Museum of Art and History, before joining the Dowse three years ago.

He topped a list of 16 applicants to replace former director Elizabeth Caldwell, who resigned in April, after three years in the role, to become City Gallery Wellington director.

Mr McCracken was candid about his own longevity in the role.

"I'm aware that I'm part of a really rich history and strong tradition and I want my time here to be about progress.

"We are a leader and I just want to lead the next phase of the history of this place," he said.

"How long will I be here?

"I don't know. A gallery needs to keep a fine line between staying fresh and up-to-date and maintaining stability. Who knows what the future will bring."

-nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

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