Compton Verney Director Leaves for Overseas Role
Professor Steven Parissien is stepping down from his role as Director of Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park, after almost a decade at the helm, for a new role as the Executive Director of a museum in Toronto, Canada.
Having avoided dereliction in 1993 thanks to the dedication of the late Sir Peter Moores, Compton Verney was fully opened to the public in 2004. The 120-acre site is now a nationally-accredited art gallery and major visitor attraction.
During Parissien’s tenure, visitor numbers have more than doubled, elements of the historic Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown landscape have been restored, and a number of critically-acclaimed and hugely popular exhibitions have been staged. As part of the gallery’s celebrated artistic programme which aims to attract a diverse range of audiences, Parissien himself has curated a string of exhibitions including Turner and Constable (2013), Canaletto in Britain (2015), Britain in the Fifties (2016), and the upcoming Whistler and Nature (opens 20 October). With the express intention of building new audiences, in April 2018 Compton Verney became an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation with funds awarded to support artistic projects in the landscape.
During his time as Director, an ambitious building and conservation programme has taken place across the estate. The Ice House and Grade I-listed ‘Capability’ Brown Chapel have been fully restored, and the site now boasts an award-winning visitor welcome centre. Conservation of the site has also enabled the development of a resilient commercial offer including an increasingly lucrative wedding and corporate hire business. Alongside these initiatives, the Education and Learning team has developed a wide and varied programme working with schools, children’s centres, care homes and other local groups – enabling under-engaged and under-represented groups to access high-quality artistic experiences on their doorstep.
Passionate about ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to access great art and culture by bringing the best of both to the regions, Professor Parissien has also been instrumental in building partnerships with museums, galleries and arts organisations across the UK “This has enabled us to tour exhibitions across the country, share ideas and examples of best practice,” he explains. “We have also worked with major arts organisations in Warwickshire to create a partnership of regional attractions designed to partner with local businesses and lobby government.”
Conscious of the importance of academic and curatorial rigour, Compton Verney has also forged strong links with some of the country’s most respected higher education institutions, most notably the Universities of Oxford (whose partnership enabled the re-launch of the Victorian Women’s Library in 2017), Warwick and Coventry. The latter awarded Parissien a Visiting Professorship in 2015. A significant partnership has also been forged with the Armed Forces, with Compton Verney being the first English museum to sign the Armed Forces Covenant.
As the organisation looks to the future to build on its success as a destination gallery, visitor attraction and a great day out, Steven feels the time is right to hand over the reins: “I’ve loved my time here, and can look back on my record with a good deal of pride and satisfaction. It’s been challenging, but it has been a privilege and great fun. Compton Verney is a vibrant place, with dedicated and exceptionally talented staff, a diverse programme of engaging exhibitions that appeal to all, and a wide range of activities for the local community. I’m sad to leave, but I feel now is the right time to immerse myself in a new environment with fresh challenges.”
Compton Verney Chair of Governors, Kirsten Suenson-Taylor, says “We’d all like to thank Steven for his service over the last nine years, for helping to shape the organisation into what it is today, and establishing a solid grounding for future leaders to see Compton Verney into the next era of its already impressive history. We are currently looking for a new Director to continue his excellent work in realising our shared vision of Compton Verney as a welcoming place of discovery, play and reflection.”