THE new chief of a £25million Colchester arts complex wants to make it something the town is proud of.

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Matthew Rowe was yesterday unveiled as the next director of Firstsite, replacing Kath Wood who announced she was stepping down in May.

Mr Rowe, currently the artistic director at Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, will take up his new role in January.

He said: “The positioning of Firstsite within the local community is essential to my new role, therefore I hope to extend Firstsite’s mission in bringing excellent art to everyone, supporting artists from the region to develop their careers and demonstrating the social value that contemporary visual art brings to society.

“After just over a year in its outstanding new home, Firstsite has made excellent progress and I hope that I can contribute to the next phase of its success and to assist it reaching its full potential in the coming years.

“I am delighted to have been appointed as director of Firstsite, an organisation which has successfully presented important contemporary art to a broad range of audiences and positioned itself at the forefront of the contemporary visual arts in the UK.

“I look forward to working with the excellent team at Firstsite and its supportive stakeholders to ensure that Firstsite becomes a real beacon for the eastern region and achieves a sense of civic pride within Colchester.”

Firstsite had a controversial beginning - when it opened in September 2011 it was four years late and £10m over budget.

But Chris Paveley, chairman of Firstsite’s board of trustees, said it had enjoyed a successful first year - attracting more than 175,000 visitors.

He added: “Matthew will now play a vitally important role in maintaining this momentum, reaching out to new audiences and satisfying our current patrons with new and innovative programming and learning opportunities.

“We are extremely pleased to announce Matthew’s appointment and are very excited about the future of Firstsite under his creative leadership.”

Councillor Tim Young, portfolio holder for culture at Colchester Borough Council, said: “I’d like to welcome Matthew to Colchester and to Firstsite in particular.

“I look forward to working with him in a productive fashion to take firstsite forward in an accessible and innovative way to make it a must-see venue for all residents and visitors.

“Matthew comes with an excellent reputation and, on behalf of Colchester Borough Council, I would view this as a really sound and promising appointment.”

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