Fringe Box



The Force Behind Watts Gallery’s Regeneration To Step Down

Published on: 18 Nov, 2016
Updated on: 21 Nov, 2016
Perdita Hunt OBE

Perdita Hunt OBE DL

Perdita Hunt, who many regard as the force behind the efforts that led to the successful restoration of Watts Gallery, is to step down in July 2017 as director of Watts Gallery Trust after 12 years.

In an announcement made today (November 18, 2016), it was said that she intended to pursue other interests in culture, heritage and leadership, including her role as Trustee at the Heritage Lottery Fund, South East committee member of the Arts Council, Leadership Insight consultant and tutor at the Recess College.

The Watts Gallery Trust will now begin the process of recruiting her successor.

Perdita Hunt OBE, DL was appointed director from April 2004.  She had previously worked in senior leadership positions in the Arts Council, National Heritage Memorial Fund and World Wildlife Fund.

Before that she was development and marketing director at Aldeburgh Music and Theatre Projects and co-ordinator at Chapter Arts Centre. She was awarded the OBE in 2015 for services to the Arts and was appointed as Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey in June 2011.

Mrs Hunt said: “It has been a great privilege to lead such a special institution as Watts Gallery Trust and I am proud of what we have achieved over the past decade.

Take a look round the gallery and displays at Compton.

The restored main gallery at Watts Gallery.

“The fact that Watts Gallery-Artists’ Village attracts over 65,000 people each year, including 37,000 paying visitors, to see the exhibitions, take part in activities or see displays of the amazing Watts Collection, is testimony to the dedication of all who work at Watts Gallery Trust and those who support it in so many different ways.

“The Big Issues learning and outreach programme and the way in which it is transforming people’s lives by offering “Art for All”, is something which originates from the Watts ethos and one which we have strived to regenerate and promote.

“Watts Gallery Trust is in very good shape to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead, especially as it enters its bicentenary year, and will go from strength to strength. I will always feel passionate about Watts Gallery and will continue to support the organisation from a distance.”

There were plenty of visitors at Watts gallery to enjoy free entry to the beautifully restored buildings.

The restored exterior. The whole gallery complex was in a poor state of repair before the restoration. Buckets had to be placed within the gallery to collect drops from the leaking roof.

Richard Ormond CBE, chairman of the trustees of Watts Gallery Trust says: “During her time, Perdita has master-minded a rebirth of Watts Gallery, from quiet backwater to cultural powerhouse.

“The acquisition of Limnerslease, the Arts & Crafts house built by G.F. and Mary Watts as a rural retreat, has added a whole new dimension to the Watts offering and quadrupled the size of the estate.

Limnerslease, George and Mary Watts home by Watts Gallery, Compton

Limnerslease, George and Mary Watts home by Watts Gallery, Compton. Photo – Watts Gallery

“The opening of the Great Studios in 2016, after a £5million fund-raising campaign, has been warmly received. Watts Gallery Trust has also assumed responsibility for the nearby Cemetery and Cemetery Chapel, Mary Watts’s Arts & Crafts extravaganza. The Gallery and related buildings, now renamed ‘Watts Gallery-Artists’ Village’, have become an Arts & Crafts destination.”

“When she comes to step down, Perdita can take pride in the thriving institution she leaves behind, with a dedicated staff, an enthusiastic group of volunteers and a throng of friends, patrons and supporters. Twelve years ago what she has achieved would have seemed a pipe dream. Now the future for Watts looks bright.”

Mary Anne Stevens, independent art historian and curator and chairman designate for Watts Gallery Trust says: “Thanks to the achievements over the last decade, the trustees are now ready to take Watts Gallery–Artists’ Village – a unique campus of listed buildings, collections and landscape with a dynamic learning programme,  into the next phase of development: restoring the artists’ house; saving the Watts Chapel; opening and enhancing the landscape, and securing the long-term sustainability of a leading centre for exploring Victorian art, social history, craft and design”.

“I and the Board of Trustees will benefit from the support of Matthew Bowcock CBE, the recently elected Deputy Chairman.”

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