NEWCASTLE Art Gallery will be without a director for the first time in 56 years if the Newcastle council cuts the position in a bid to claw its way out of debt.
When gallery director Ron Ramsay would lose his position has not been disclosed, but the gallery’s society has until then to change the council’s mind.
If the plan goes ahead, a cultural facilities manager will oversee the gallery, as well as Newcastle Museum, City Hall, the Civic Theatre and the Civic Playhouse.
There is concern among patrons and the arts community that a general director would not have the time or knowledge to deliver quality exhibitions and attract the usual 70,000 visitors a year.
Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation member Peter Frost said the proposed cultural director job would be ‘‘impossible’’ and a ‘‘race to the bottom’’.
Art gallery supporter and member Linda Drummond said with the gallery hidden behind council work at Laman Street it was a ‘‘miracle’’ it received visitors at all, and puts its success down to an expert director and a traditional gallery structure.
‘‘It is because they have a really good leader in Ron Ramsay,’’ Mrs Drummond said.
In his six years in the top job, Mr Ramsay has almost doubled the value of the gallery’s works, from $45million to more than $80million.
The most recent acquisition was the donation of a Brett Whitely sculpture valued at more than $850,000.
Mrs Drummond said there was no doubt the gallery’s structure was successful and that there was no Australian precedent of a successful art gallery without a director.
‘‘[Galleries] a quarter of our size ... all have a director.’’
She said to lose the director would be a backwards step for Newcastle.