THE National Gallery of Australia has today (April 12) announced a new annual oration in memory of the late NGA director, Betty Churcher.
The inaugural oration will be livestreamed on April 21 and will include Melissa Chiu, director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in conversation with journalist Julia Baird.
Chiu’s career in the arts, her personal story from Darwin to Washington, the future for women artists and how museums engage new audiences will be canvassed in the conversation.
The inaugural oration aims to recognise the impact and legacy of Churcher, who was the gallery’s director from 1990-1997, and the first and only woman to hold this position.
She was to become known as “Betty Blockbuster” for her large-scale exhibitions that reached beyond the traditional gallery-goer.
Churcher was also the first woman to lead an Australian tertiary education centre as Dean of the School of Art and Design at Phillip Institute of Technology in Melbourne in 1982 and the first woman to lead a state gallery as Director of the Art Gallery of WA in 1987.
She once said: “When I was growing up there was no woman to act as a role model for me. When I went to the Royal College of Arts not a single female was on the staff. Even the thought of having a female on the staff was outrageous.”
NGA director Nick Mitzevich says the way Churcher brought art to life had always been an inspiration to him and that it was the spirit of her inclusive approach that continues in the gallery’s current vision to lead a contemporary cultural agenda.
Inaugural Betty Churcher memorial oration, 7pm-8pm, Thursday, April 21. Online event, livestreamed. Pay what you wish, but bookings essential here.
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