Restructuring will make Experience Wellington “sustainable”, says boss
In some nondescript building next to Wellington’s Plimmer Steps, Sarah Rusholme is sitting in her office with a glass of water, ready to speak after several weeks of many internal discussions but barely a glance in public.
She was preparing to publish the results of her internal consultation on the overhaul of Experience Wellington, the art organization controlled by the council that manages City Gallery, Space Place at Carter Observatory, Nairn Street Cottage, Wellington Museum, the Cable Car Museum. and Capital E.
“Everyone’s idea of what a cultural institution should look like is not the same as everyone’s,” said the CEO of Experience Wellington in an interview in her office.
Rusholme and Experience Wellington have come under heavy criticism in recent weeks over the controversial restructuring, which Rusholme finalized this week.
Its changes come into effect Monday. How did it get there?
* The director of the Wellington Museum is going through a restructuring process
* Thoughtful judicial review after the finalization of the restructuring of Experience Wellington
* Wellington’s restructuring experiment may be illegal, letter warns
About two months ago, Rusholme offered staff a proposed new structure for the organization, an “ongoing dialogue” with staff through surveys, emails and face-to-face conversations. After an initial period of staff consultation, Rusholme revised the proposal and handed it to staff, before making it public on Wednesday.
The new structure is flatter, eliminating several leadership positions in individual sub-organizations in favor of a more consolidated leadership team, which will have authority over the six institutions.
The new executive management team is made up of a general manager (Rusholme), and under its seven directors: from Maori engagement; art and heritage; exhibitions and project delivery; children, youth and community involvement; people, operations and visitor services; fundraising, marketing and communications; and financial and commercial.
All seven roles, with the exception of the Maori Engagement Manager, have been offered to staff already employed by Experience Wellington. The Maori engagement post will be advertised outside.
Rusholme says the organization has been working for about three years to improve its connection with te Ao Maori. An internal audit conducted by Victoria University of Wellington revealed “significant gaps” that it needed to fill in the inclusion of Māori in the organization.
At this point, says Rusholme, Experience Wellington began to have conversations “with people from across our ecosystem,” as well as with staff. The organization has also launched an annual staff wānanga and established an internal team dedicated to advancing Te Ao Maori.
“It became part of our strategic plan,” she said, using the Maori word for stake. In recent years, she says, Experience Wellington has been able to bring more Maori staff into specific roles. However, the organization could not quantify it.
Rusholme says there is overwhelming support for the idea of a new director of the Maori engagement role and that the successful candidate would help guide this work, as well as shape the organization’s tikanga (customs) towards a more bicultural approach. While the City Gallery has lost its dedicated director and chief curator in the restructuring, one of the two new roles of senior curator will oversee you Māori or Maori art.
Iwi executives were unaware of the restructuring when contacted by Thing two weeks ago. Asked about it, Rusholme pointed to Experience Wellington’s iwi-affiliated directors Peter Jackson and Peter Johnson.
“Maintaining the integrity of the process is really important… connecting with our stakeholders and taking people on the next leg of the journey with us is going to be really important,” she says.
During this time, Rusholme was the subject of a litany of complaints from Wellington’s arts sector: they alleged a lack of outpatient consultation, potential damage to reputation, donations and loans, no full assessment. risks and asked about the legality of the restructuring, which the organization disputes.
Rusholme is not fazed, saying it was “great to have this passion reflected in us”.
“For me, the staff above all. That’s the whole point of a confidential employment process – it’s to listen to your staff, ”she says.
She says the new structure will allow her management team to “better plan and buy, [and] take advantage of each other’s networks ”. The Art / Heritage Director will have a ‘content vision’, while the Exhibition / Project Delivery Director will be responsible for large projects like the upcoming Hilma af Klint exhibition at the City Gallery. The director of children’s and community engagement will be responsible for things like late nights and low-sensitivity hours of the gallery.
Rusholme says Wellington City Council, which provides him with two-thirds of its funding, was “absolutely” informed of the restructuring process but was withdrawn from it.
Rusholme has been managing director for a year. Although the organization has not confirmed whether she entered the post with a restructuring mandate, Rusholme says the pandemic has forced her to think about how the world is changing and how her new strategic plan. should be reflected in its structure.
Prior to becoming Managing Director in June 2020, Rusholme led Capital E as Director of Children and Youth, a role she had held since 2016. Prior to that, she was responsible for the strategic development of Experience Wellington for six years. She was Director of the Carter Observatory from 2007 to 2010. She moved to New Zealand from the UK, where she worked at the National Space Center.
She says the restructuring aims to make Experience Wellington “more sustainable” by connecting staff behind the scenes.
“The world we operate in has changed – is changing. We are going through huge changes. We need organizations capable of meeting this challenge; and a talented and passionate staff who can do it too. And we have it in spades.