Katharine Stout, currently deputy director at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), has been appointed director of Focal Point Gallery in Southend-on-Sea.

She will take up her new role in May and succeeds Joe Hill, who was appointed director of Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery in December 2017.

Stout joined ICA as head of programme in 2013, becoming deputy director in 2017. Prior to joining ICA, from 1999 to 2013 she was curator of contemporary art at Tate Britain.

She is co-founder and associate director of Drawing Room and serves on the board of the artists’ studios organisation Tannery Arts.

Commenting on her appointment, she said: “I’m delighted to join as director of Focal Point Gallery, working with the team to build upon the excellent programme and reputation already established, and further its local relevance to the culturally rich area of Southend-on-Sea and South Essex.”

She added that she is keen to enhance the gallery’s national and international significance “as a pioneering contemporary arts organisation”.

Stout joins the organisation at a time of expansion for what is South Essex’s only publicly-funded gallery for contemporary art.

An extension to the gallery is planned for autumn 2021 and new artists’ studios are due to open this summer in the converted former Beecroft Art Gallery in Westcliff-on-Sea, following a successful Arts Council England small capital bid.

Focal Point is based on the ground floor of Southend’s central library, The Forum, in the town’s Elmer Square. It is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and part of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.

Scott Dolling, director of culture, tourism and property at the council, said that Stout “brings a wealth of experience to an already high-performing and successful gallery which will continue to challenge and set high standards. We look forward to her joining the organisation”.

Katharine Stout, new director of Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea. Courtesy: Focal Point Gallery

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