BIFB appoints new CEO – Inside Imaging

May 3, 2022

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB) has nominated vanessa gerrans as CEO, taking over from Fiona Sweet, who retired in December.

Vanessa Gerrans. Pictured: Alice Miles. Source: BIFB.

Gerrans moved to Ballarat from South West Victoria, where she spent six years working as director of the Warrnambool Art Gallery.

“I really like being in a regional place – for me it’s really exciting,” Gerrans told the ABC. “Ballarat is growing and the council is really supportive of culture and what it can do for a city, a place and the people.”

The next Biennial is scheduled for 2023, and in the off-season Gerrans will continue the development of the new National Center for Photography.

“One of the immediate tasks is to transform a heritage building into what will become the National Center for Photography,” Gerrans said. “I look forward to building new relationships and meeting the people at BIFB, who I’m sure are passionate about their culture and their place.”

It was announced in November 2020 that the National Center for Photography had secured a $6.7 million grant from the Victorian state government. The space is located in the heritage-listed 1860s Union Bank building on Lydiard Street, which was purchased by the BIFB in 2018 for $1.3 million.

Here is more information about Gerrans from a career biography taken from the Public Galleries of Australia website:

“Since 2015, she has reinvigorated the gallery’s role as the cultural guardian of the region through her innovative and dynamic programs (audiences and exhibitions) and her contribution to the reinvention of downtown. Prior to WAG, Vanessa worked at RMIT Gallery where for over a decade she curated and collaborated on various exhibition programs including major retrospectives and innovative contemporary exhibitions.

Vanessa has completed several highly successful public art, infrastructure and renovation projects for cultural institutions in Victoria and has garnered substantial philanthropic support for her work. She has organized more than 100 exhibitions and published numerous catalogs on contemporary art and literature.

Her insight into ways to enrich the South West Victoria community and further strengthen the role of WAG has enabled Vanessa to work with the Robotics Academy to support girls’ potential in STEAM learning; the LGBTIQA+ community and Maar Nation Elders to stimulate opportunities for engagement and create a sense of belonging and purpose for the benefit of youth, education, the environment and local economies.

In an opening address to BIFB email subscribers, Gerrans acknowledges the hard work done by both Sweet and founding director Jeff Moorfoot.

“I warmly salute the work of Jeff Moorfoot OAM who started the organization in 2005 and then brought the festival to Ballarat in 2009 to achieve significant growth since its inception in Daylesford,” she wrote in the email. “Nominated in 2015, Fiona Sweet has elevated the festival’s status internationally by increasing visitor numbers and is instrumental in the visionary purchase of the Union Bank building in the heritage district of Lydiard Street, Ballarat.”

Sweet, who retired three months ahead of schedule and before the end of the last festival, also served as creative director. It is not known if another appointment is on the way.

Moorfoot and Sweet had opposing philosophies on how to run the festival. The Moorfoot Festival was an underfunded grassroots event that brought the photographic community together to celebrate the medium; while Sweet secured enticing levels of financial support to stage a polished event and grow the BIFB as an institution.

The two achieved quite different KPIs, but it’s fair to say that they both performed very well in their roles.

Interior Imaging will follow with interest the development of the next chapter of the BIFB.

James C. Tibbs