Karen Quinlan’s AM has come at the perfect moment.
She has finished her time at the Bendigo Art Gallery and moved into a new chapter of her life.
The former director of Bendigo Art Gallery was today made a member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the visual arts, as an administrator and gallery curator, and to higher education.
She was very grateful to the people of Bendigo, for backing her, and supporting the gallery.
“It’s a great honour, and I really attribute it to the fact that I had such a great city behind me, backing me, backing the gallery,” Ms Quinlan said.
“I’m very pleased and very proud of the fact that I am receiving it. It’s so connected to my time in Bendigo and all of the great things that we achieved at the Bendigo Art Gallery.
“It’s just a wonderful way to finish that part of my life.”
When she stepped up to the role of director at Bendigo Art Gallery 18 years ago Ms Quinlan had young children. She described herself as “a busy, busy woman” then, but it didn’t stop her ambition for the gallery.
“It was an opportunity, I saw it, I went for it, I got it and I made absolutely the best of it that I could,” Ms Quinlan said.
“I spent 18 years as director, learning on the job initially, but really pushing the boundaries, taking the gallery to a place it had probably never realised it could go.”
Ms Quinlan knew she needed to find a point of difference for the gallery. She began contacting major institutions overseas to build the Bendigo gallery’s resume.
Ms Quinlan dates the Golden Age of Couture in 2008-2009 as turning point. Working with the Victoria and Albert museum was the beginning of a new era.
“That was when it really all started to happen,” Ms Quinlan said.
“It was a major exhibition, we had never worked in that space before.”
If Ms Quinlan had to single out a personal highlight, it was bringing the British Museum’s Discobolus – or discus thrower – to Bendigo.
As director, Ms Quinlan was driven by two loves. One for building art collections and another for solving problems.
She was proud to build a nation profile for the Bendigo gallery, and leave it with a strong legacy and “wonderful” staff.
Working for the gallery was an experience Ms Quinlan loved. And she’s grateful to the people of Bendigo for backing her during 18 years of hard work.
“I want to thank the people of Bendigo for always supporting the gallery,” Ms Quinlan said.
“The city has transformed over the period that I was there. I’m very proud of the fact that I worked in that city, and I will never forget it.”
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.