Former Blue Mountains councillor and Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils president and chair Alison McLaren has replaced Peter Anderson as the chairperson of Penrith Performing and Visual Arts, home of the Q Theatre.
Following a year marred by pandemic closures and cancellations, the Penrith arts group announced the new board leadership this week. Mr Anderson has been in the role since PP&VA was first established in 2006.
The centre comprises The Joan, Penrith Regional Gallery, Penrith Conservatorium and Q Theatre.
In a media announcement, the company said it was "thrilled ... and excited for what the future holds under her leadership".
A spokesperson said they have "a promising year ahead, although the company is taking a cautious approach, programming events at The Joan on a quarter-by-quarter basis to swiftly address potential health directives, and in response to community surveys late in 2020".
"While both sites are operating at reduced capacity, visitor numbers at Penrith Regional Gallery have been consistent; and drama, music and visual arts education programs remain popular."
Ms McLaren thanked the staff for working through the challenges of 2020 and acknowledged the achievements of Peter Anderson.
"COVID-19 has brought a unique set of challenges ... and I look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure a strong recovery. PP&VA is an essential part of the creative fabric of western Sydney and we are well placed to drive an arts-led recovery from this pandemic."
PP&VA posted a $71,000 deficit in 2018/2019 which Ms McLaren said was a "a result of growth within the organisation and the timing of certain expenses". But she said they quickly bounced back the following year. The diverse offerings (including online) and great staff had helped them "weather the COVID storm," and lockdowns she added.
"The investment in new programs is a critical element of our long-term growth strategy and it is normal for organisations such as the PP&VA to have a small deficit from time to time. Last financial year we posted a surplus of $196,066 as a result of our careful management. We were fortunate we had nine good months before COVID hit."
She said the focus for 2021 was to "build on the good work ... and adapt to the new environment".
"Rebuilding public confidence in the safety of theatres is critical and a priority."
Ms McLaren is an experienced PP&VA board member, joining as a director in 2015. The former Winmalee High student is a University of Western Sydney Woman of the West winner and works as an executive director with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, following several years in senior government relations roles with Urban Growth NSW. The PP&VA board roles are all voluntary and there is no renumeration.