Penny Macbeth has been appointed as the new director of the Glasgow School of Art. Following a tumultuous week of uncertainty, as reported by Clare Henry on Artlyst, the institution has been in flux needing a pair of safe hands to sort it out.
She will need a tough skin & protective flak jacket to sort the GSA out – CH
Penny Macbeth is currently Dean of Manchester School of Art and will take up the post in May. She succeeds Prof Irene McAra-McWilliam who was appointed on an interim basis in November 2018.
So who is Penny Macbeth? She is a textile person her Instagram is –msoatheweeklywardrobe – It is populated with fashion drawings – shoes, bags, hats, sunglasses, socks. She studied Textiles at Birmingham, achieving an MA.
Ms Macbeth is the academic lead for Manchester Metropolitan Universities groundbreaking School of Digital Arts: SODA, which is due to open in 2021. SODA received 14.9 million pounds of funding from GMCA. The project represents a combined investment of 35 million pounds from Manchester Met and GMCA.
Coincidentally the contractor for SODA was Keir – the same company, working on the GSA when the last Catastrophic fire occurred.
Penny’s CV talks about “community empathy and cohesion” – (much needed at GSA right now!) Her 2018 conference paper was titled “A Matter of Life and Death.”
Macbeth is a member of the design research group. Her work explores cloth’s potential as a carrier of narrative and catalyst for community empathy and cohesion; research is drawn from artists, practitioners and archival sources. In March 2018 she co-convened the International Conference Textile and Place with colleagues from the School of Art and The Whitworth Art Gallery: presenting a paper entitled ‘A Matter of Life and Death‘ exploring what we might understand by socially engaged or socially enacted textiles.
Ms Macbeth has acknowledged the long road ahead to restoring confidence in the institution but stressed GSA continues to have an “enviable global reputation”. “I am honoured to be invited to lead the school and to become part of its creative community at this significant point in its long and successful history,” she added.
GSA said the job attracted a strong field of national and international applicants, but Ms Macbeth was the “outstanding candidate”. The board highlighted her success at Manchester School of Art across student experience, engagement with the city and the community. It also concluded her ability to manage significant capital development projects reflects many aspects of the role at GSA.
So what are the first essentials for Penny Macbeth ?
1) Assure staff their jobs are safe.
2) Remove the toxic atmosphere of fear.
3) Stop the bullying.
4) Re-instate anyone sacked.
5) Encourage the Mackintosh rebuild in any and every way possible
If her courage allows – Begin a process to separate the management of the Mackintosh Building from the running of the Glasgow Art of School. Positive moves must be made in these directions for any progress to begin.
Things that still need sorting out: By Clare Henry
When the GSA caught fire twice in four years, with the 2018 fire resulting in complete destruction, disbelief and heartbreak prompted international sorrow. We wept the first time. We were enraged the second time. A total rebuild is the only solution.
Architect Gordon Gibb, director of Professional Studies at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, continues his fight for truth and transparency. Previously redacted documents reveal shocking facts with startling clarity. Non-disclosure pay-outs abound.
The internal report on the original fire has never been released. Why not? GSA has refused to disclose details of the insurance cover, even to the Culture Committee Enquiry. Why? What are they so terrified of?
Meanwhile, I learn more about heartbroken, stalwart staff who soldier on in depleted numbers, causing stress to themselves and students alike.