AS TOLD TO Joshua Brosnahan PHOTO Corentin Esquenet

Growing up in a place like Washington DC meant spending so much time along the Mall in the Smithsonian Institutions. I became obsessed with galleries and museums from a very early age. I’ve always been fascinated by the telling of our story, the different ways we do this through art and through preserving our culture.

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As I got older, I channelled that into becoming a photographer. That was the best way for me to experience the depth and breadth of who we are as people. I studied at the Corcoran School of Art and Design In Washington. I completed a Masters in Arts Management and Creative Enterprising to help artists to get the opportunities they deserve.

My most recent role was Deputy Director at the Centre for Craft and Design in Queensland. I worked in the realms of design thinking and design anthropology. I studied this so I could apply this to how museums and galleries work.

Even though CoCA is a private institution, we function more like a public gallery.

Like any startup, you have two to three years of finding your place. Galleries all over the world are in flux. We are working with a model from the 18th century and everyone is trying to find ways to stay relevant in the digital age.

CoCA has such incredible potential – not only because of the 140 year history and how loved it is as an organisation, but because of the changes that are happening in Christchurch.

I’m part of the working group for the city’s art strategy. One of the things we’ve been talking about is harnessing the city’s creative energy. It was already there, but it took the earthquake to ‘crack the shell’. We’ve been listening to make sure CoCA acts as a platform to carry that forward. We’ve listened to past directors, artist members, and artists in the sector now, and the audience.
CoCA really was the social and cultural heart of Christchurch. It was the place to go, to meet people and interact. We are looking at the things that people loved about us in the past, and we’re bringing it back.

We have more of a holistic community view now. It’s a true centre of contemporary art.