Visual Arts South West announces its Network Manager

Visual Arts South West (VASW) is pleased to announce the appointment of Paula Orrell to the role of Network Manager. Paula will take up the position in April 2019. 

Paula joins VASW from Arts Council England (ACE) where she played a key role over the last 18 months in supporting artists and arts organisations across the South West. An experienced curator and arts professional, Paula’s passion and experience to develop visual arts in the region twinned with strategies on how to do so, impressed our panel at interview.

As Network Manager for VASW Paula builds on an affinity for the South West, which began in 2006 as Curator at Plymouth Arts Centre. As Artistic Director of the acclaimed River Tamar Project she commissioned artists including John Akomfrah and Adam Chodzko between 2012 and 2015. She followed this by becoming Artistic Director and Principal Curator of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Christchurch, New Zealand. In addition to her role at ACE, Paula is presently supporting The Brunswick Club, an artist-led community of studios, shared production and event spaces in Bristol, which is under threat from the plans of developers.

Paula Orrell said, “I am delighted to be leading VASW. After ten years of supporting the growth of the visual arts in Plymouth, and an international period in New Zealand, I love being back in the South West, and am truly passionate and ambitious for our region. Working for Arts Council England over the last eighteen months has been an honour – supporting practitioners in the visual arts and organisations to develop, enable and thrive. We are all facing precarious times and I want to consider how we future-proof our work and build a brilliant sector that is nationally and internationally recognised. I look forward to meeting many new people and working alongside fantastic colleagues again.”

VASW Co-chairs Louise Coysh and Jamie Eastman said, “With Paula Orrell’s extensive experience, energy and passion for the visual arts, VASW will be well placed to continue its role as a supporting force for artists, practitioners and organisations in our region, and be a vital advocate for the sector. In these times, connecting South West ecologies to national and global opportunities for visual arts is also increasingly urgent; we’re delighted Paula will join us, our Steering Group and our Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN) partners to meet such challenges”.


About Paula Orrell

Paula Orrell is a curator with diverse experience across New Zealand, Europe, China and the UK. For the past 17 years, she has championed and created new roles for the visual arts. Paula studied sculpture at Sheffield Hallam University, volunteered for S1 Studios and Yorkshire Sculpture Park and received an MA in Creative Curating from Goldsmiths College, London. She has recently returned to the UK from New Zealand where she re-launched a 130-year-old arts society into a new public art gallery for Christchurch.

Previous roles include Curator at Plymouth Arts Centre, which she put firmly on the cultural map, transforming a regional arts centre into an internationally acclaimed venue by commissioning radical and significant artists. In Plymouth, Paula developed Take A Part, a socially engaged public art programme in partnership with Plymouth City Council. In the South West, she was director of Alias, an independent artists’ development programme that mentored individuals and groups. She was also the artistic director of the River Tamar Project, a contemporary public art programme and festival at Plymouth University. Before moving to the South West she worked in London and curated exhibitions and commissioned new work for the Barbican Curve Gallery, Beaconsfield and the British Museum.

Paula has worked with a diverse range of well-known artists and helped to establish the careers of many younger artists, to name a few: Marina Abramovic, Lucy Orta, Roy Ascott, Lisa Reihana, John Akomfrah, Melanie Manchot, Tom Dale, Cadu and Ultra Red. Sir Nicholas Serota has praised Paula for her excellent programme, including works that went on to show at much bigger galleries: "It shows how relatively small organisations can be fleet of foot. You can have new ideas, break new ground and show the way to big organisations."

For further information and press enquiries please email: Nella Aarne, Network Administrator, Visual Arts South West