Lisa Havilah to Head Up Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
By Dennis Mao
Lisa Havilah was named chief executive of Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) in an announcement made by the institution on November 8. She succeeds Dolla Merrillees, who stepped down from the position in July after calls for her resignation due to the public museum’s alleged misuse of taxpayer money. Havilah will take the helm on January 7, 2019.
MAAS comprises three platforms: the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and the Museums Discovery Centre. Havliah is stepping on board at a critical time. Since the controversy in July, Powerhouse Museum has suffered from low staff morale and plunging ticket sales, making audience engagement a pressing issue. Havilah will also oversee the Powerhouse’s controversial relocation from its current site in the Ultimo neighbourhood to Parramatta, where a new AUD 1.17 billion (USD 85 million) building is to be constructed, though an economic model for the museum’s operations is yet to be settled upon. Further, the Parramatta site is flood-prone, leading Kylie Winkworth, the museum’s former trustee, to describe the enterprise as being “the wrong museum on the wrong site.”
Nonetheless, Don Harwin, art minister for the New South Wales district, believes that Havilah will contribute the needed expertise. He stated: “MAAS’s future, in particular the move of the Powerhouse Museum requires expert governance—I have total confidence Lisa is the person for the job.” Havilah described her appointment as a “massive opportunity,” and said that she has “a million ideas” to expand the museum’s audience.
Havilah is currently director of Sydney’s arts precinct Carriageworks, where major events such as the Biennale of Sydney and Sydney Contemporary art fair take place. Under Havilah’s supervision, Carriageworks has grown rapidly over the past decade into one of the liveliest cultural landmarks in Australia, achieving a visitation number of 1.32 million in 2017. From 2005 to 2011, she served as director of the Campbelltown Arts Centre, and was assistant director of Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre from 1998 to 2004.
Dennis Mao is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.
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