Q&A with Kate Brindley

Geraldine Kendall, 25.11.2014
Arnolfini's new director on her ambitions for Bristol's arts centre
Kate Brindley was appointed as the director of Bristol's contemporary arts centre, Arnolfini, earlier this month. Brindley has been the interim director of the venue since April this year.

She joined Arnolfini after almost five years as the director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (Mima), and before that was the director of Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives.

What attracted you to the job at Arnolfini?

Arnolfini has a wonderful history and reputation for presenting ground-breaking international contemporary art and as a leading cultural regeneration project – one of the first in the 1970s. As a Bristol resident I’m delighted to be able to contribute to the next stage of Arnolfini’s journey in a changing environment. Bristol is an increasingly exciting cultural city, so being able to come back to work here is a privilege.

What kind of plans do you have in mind for the centre?

Arnolfini has an established audience and strong learning programme which underpins its artistic content. I am keen to see how Arnolfini can build on those strengths to develop a broader audience for contemporary art. I want to bring some established names to Bristol to show at Arnolfini as well as to collaborate with some of our local heroes, starting with an exhibition of Richard Long’s work in 2015 to coincide with Bristol’s status as European Green Capital. 

Working in partnership with the city is a key part of my plans, both with people who deliver great work such as our future collaboration with Bristol Old Vic and the In Between Time festival next year, but also in closer alliance with the University of the West of England in a partnership centred on contemporary arts education, which is very exciting for us both.

What do you think the main challenges will be?

We want to continue to bring the best global art to Bristol as Arnolfini has always done, but also offer a vibrant programme of different art forms including music, film and performance. We will have to work hard and build support to be able to achieve our ambitions, while keeping our wonderful historic harbourside building looking great and staying free to all.

We need to build new support and be resourceful in a competitive funding environment. I’m looking forward to the challenge and working with the people of Bristol to keep Arnolfini fresh and relevant for the next generation.

What will you take from your experience at Mima and Bristol Museums to inform this role?

Previous experience helps enormously with a new challenge. Having worked in Bristol for five years on such acclaimed projects as MShed and Banksy vs Bristol Museum, I still have a lot of friends and contacts, which is a source of support. Being able to deal with change as a leader is important and in both of my last directorships I learnt a huge amount about organisational development and leading in a time of change, all of which I can draw on in my new role.

I’m a natural collaborator and really enjoy working with partners – so I’m looking forward to working with key Bristol organisations to ensure Arnolfini has a bright, collaborative and ambitious future.