On the Couch with Kelly Gellatly

Kelly Gellatly - photo by Richard TimburyWho is Kelly Gellatly?
I’m Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne and the University’s new contemporary art museum, Buxton Contemporary, which opens in early 2018. I’m also a mum of three, an animal lover and a gardener-in-the-making (I try). I bake for pleasure and relaxation even though I don’t gravitate to sweet things, and I’m the queen of way too many craft projects that I’ve either abandoned or just haven’t quite finished.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I just can’t imagine doing anything different as I love what I do! I’m fortunate to get up every day and love going to work, and work and life have always just bled into each other – there’s no clear separation between the two. I just couldn’t conceive of how that would function, and why. I suppose I’m one of those lucky people whose passion and work are the same thing, and for me, it’s all centred on a love of art.

Who inspires you and why?
Artists and creative thinkers generally – those who know they look at or conceive of things differently and aren’t frightened of where this may take them. Also, people who are committed to change and to working to make the world a better place – anyone who gives of themselves to help others; whether it’s a fabulous childcare worker, a carer, an aid worker or a truly visionary philanthropist.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I hope we all try to do that in our own little way. For me, making the visual arts accessible is a really important thing, for the arts can change people’s view of the world and perception and understanding of themselves and hopefully inspire personal or societal change, however incremental. On a more fundamental level, I am very mindful, as a female director, to encourage and support women in the workplace, particularly in terms of the burdens (and joys!) of childcare and or other forms of caring responsibility. We’re also working really hard at home to reduce our waste and to think about how and what we purchase and how we use the stuff of life.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Oh, to have a holiday! I’m not really great at resort-style holidays, although the appeal increases the busier I get! The cities I love – and always want to return to – are New York, Paris and Beijing, but this is also weighed up against regions like Scandinavia, as I haven’t been. Despite the fact that I hate the cold, I will get to Antarctica one day.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Our museums and galleries of course, including the Potter, but also our great parks. I also love providing insider’s secrets with time just wandering through the city so that you can help reveal its treasures.

What are you currently reading?
A biography of American photographer Diane Arbus – An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus by William Todd Schultz.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m in a bit of a music rut – all suggestions welcome! A range of podcasts in the car … but I’m fickle and bounce from one to the other quite a bit.

Happiness is?
Hanging out with family and friends over good food and wine. Our brown chocolate Labrador, Marlowe.

What does the future hold for you?
A lot! The lead up and opening of Buxton Contemporary in the Southbank Arts Precinct is really exciting and I am looking forward to working closely with our new neighbours in the area (NGV, ACCA, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, MTC and the Melbourne Recital Centre). We also start a redevelopment of the Potter in late 2018 with support we’ve received from the Ian Potter Foundation. This will see us launch the Ian Potter Museum of Art Education & Programs Centre in late 2019 with new teaching and learning and public program spaces for the museum – something we greatly need. Amongst all of this, I am also curating a survey of Melbourne-based painter Stieg Persson for the Potter for early 2018.

For more information on The Ian Potter Museum of Art – The University of Melbourne, visit: www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au for details.

Image: Kelly Gellatly – photo by Richard Timbury