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HOTA chief departs as shakeup rips through Gold Coast executive ranks

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The chief of the Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts (HOTA) precinct, Criena Gehrke, a driving force behind the Gold Coast’s evolution from cultural wasteland to unmissable arts capital, will stand down under a continuing shakeup of the city’s top posts.

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In a shock move, Gehrke said today she would leave HOTA in February 2023 after nearly a decade leading the arts and culture vision for the Gold Coast.

Gehrke’s departure is the third high-profile exit from the city’s ranks following the arrival and review of the council executive and operations by new Gold Coast CEO Tim Baker.

Gehrke’s announcement also comes just three months after an overhaul of the HOTA Board that saw former deputy Premier Jackie Trad appointed HOTA chair in May.

“I came to the Gold Coast nearly a decade ago to develop the City’s Culture Strategy 2023 – a ten-year vision that would unapologetically and ambitiously outline a roadmap for cultural development,” Gehrke said

“The Culture Strategy boldly asked the Gold Coast to value its own potential, trust its own magnificent, glittery, smart and entrepreneurial DNA and, above all, invest in its artists.

“The Gold Coast is now recognised nationally as a contemporary and exciting incubator of talent and culture. And Gold Coast artists are leading the way.”

Gehrke oversaw the transformation of the $365 million precinct that included the opening of the HOTA gallery in May last year. When it opened, the $60.5 million multi-level HOTA gallery overtook The Art Gallery of Ballarat as the largest in regional Australia.

While the gallery is the centre piece of HOTA, the precinct also includes the $37.5 million outdoor stage and amphitheatre, Green Bridge and 17 hectares of parklands as well as the existing arts centre that is slated for an upgrade from next year.

Since opening, the gallery and stages have attracted high-profile artists and events, luring record crowd numbers, however, the organisation has been smashed by the impacts of the pandemic.

An operating review of HOTA has recently been completed and delivered to council amid concerns some of the assets, including the outdoor stage, were under-utilised.

Trad said under Gehrke’s leadership, HOTA had become a “true cultural heart for the Gold Coast.”

“Over the last few years, HOTA has become a place of national significance that has redefined culture on the Gold Coast,” Trad said.

 

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