Towner appoints a new Director

Posted on 12/01/2018

Joe Hill, Towner’s new Director

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 over 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.

Working alongside Towner’s team and board of trustees, Joe will develop and implement the vision that will take the organisation forward at a particularly exciting but also challenging time in its development. He 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’. Today, the gallery continues to place this founding ethos at the heart of its activities. 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 5000 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 has had considerable funding success in recognition of its growing national reputation, including being chosen as one of four galleries in the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme and as one of the first partners, alongside Whitworth,  in Art Fund and Thomas Dane Gallery’s Moving Image Fund for Museums.

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 19 January, Andy Holden and Peter Holden: Natural Selection, opening on 3 February and Inhabit, which is curated entirely from the gallery’s extensive collection of historic, modern and contemporary art, opening on 17 February.

About Joe Hill

Joe is currently Director of Focal Point Gallery in Southend-on-Sea, where he has led the team since 2013. During this time, FPG 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’. The gallery has presented major solo projects by artists including Elizabeth Price, Bridget Smith, Paul Johnson, Ian Kier, Hannah Sawtell and Hilary Lloyd, high-profile group exhibitions ‘Duh? Art & Stupidity’ and ‘The Peculiar People’, as well as commissioned permanent artworks by Mike Nelson, Tris Vonna-Michell, Marc Camille Chaimowicz and Allen Ruppersberg. Since 2015, Joe has led the Essex Cultural Destinations programme ‘Radical Essex’, a project re-examining the county in relation to radicalism in thought, lifestyle, politics and architecture.

In July this year, the gallery opened its second site, Twenty One, positioned at the heart of Southend’s famous seafront. The space provides additional gallery space, café and venue facilities, offering a diverse creative programme to the six million annual seafront visitors. In addition to this, the gallery successfully secured capital funding to redevelop an old seafront hotel into artists’ studios.

Originally trained as an artist, Joe has over 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. In this time, Joe has worked on high-profile projects with artists including Steven Claydon, Anthea Hamilton, John Cale, Chantal Akerman, René Daniëls and Anna Maria Maiolino.

 Joe is also on the Board of Trustees of the Tetley in Leeds.

About Towner Art Gallery

Founded as an art gallery for the people, Towner Art Gallery presents exhibitions of national and international importance to audiences across the UK and beyond. Showcasing the most exciting developments in modern and contemporary art, Towner develops and supports artistic practice, and provides a place for experiencing, creating and discussing art and culture. The gallery welcomes over 150,000 visitors a year and collaborates with individuals, communities and organisations to deliver an inclusive and accessible associated public programme and learning offer. Their acclaimed Collection of 5000 works is best known for its modern British art – including the largest and most significant body of work by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) – and a growing collection of international contemporary art. In 2014, Towner became an independent charitable Trust, supported by a Board of Trustees, chaired by David Dimbleby. Towner is supported by Eastbourne Borough Council and Arts Council England through its National Portfolio Programme. www.townereastbourne.org.uk