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Whitworth Art Gallery Director named CityLife Cultural Hero

13 Jan 2015

Maria Balshaw has been selected from a shortlist packed with influential people from around Greater Manchester as the person who had made the greatest mark on the region in 2014

Maria, who is also director of Manchester Art Gallery and the Costume Gallery, was singled out by the Manchester Evening News for her ‘vision to take the Whitworth Art Gallery into a new era’.

The character of a city, a town, even a region, owes everything to its people: from the shape of the high street to the cultural calendars at our theatres and galleries, the bars we drink in, the restaurants we eat in and the public spaces we enjoy.

In that spirit, the Manchester Evening News has created the CityLife Cultural Hero Award, one that recognises the outstanding contribution over the past year of a person or organisation instrumental in shaping where we live and how we experience it.

Maria has transformed the focus of these much loved spaces - all of which have always boasted magnificent permanent collections - into critical centres for cutting edge touring shows to premiere. And she’s been hands on with it, too, welcoming guests to every opening night with introductory speeches about the work.

Biggest of all, though, has been Maria’s vision to take the Whitworth Art Gallery into a new era.

The reopening might have had to go back a few months (to Valentine's Day in fact), but the facility that Manchester will welcome in February would never have happened without Maria’s ambition, conviction or determination to sympathetically transform this iconic Victorian space into one fit for modern artistic expression and experimentation.

And, in so doing, revive a much needed green space for the community to enjoy, too.