Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer

Dr. Maria Balshaw

Director of the Whitworth, University of Manchester and Manchester City Galleries

After 11 years at the forefront of Manchester’s arts and cultural scene, Dr. Maria Balshaw has stepped down as Director of the Whitworth and Manchester City Galleries, to take up the role as the first female Director of Tate on 1 June 2017.

Maria Balshaw was Director of the Whitworth from June 2006 to 31 May 2017. She coordinated a challenging programme of historic, modern and contemporary exhibitions that capitalise on the Whitworth’s university location as well as having a strong international profile. She led a successful campaign to expand the gallery and reconnect it to the surrounding park as well as modernise and revitalise the whole gallery. This £15 million development is being supported by an £8.5 million award from the Heritage Lottery Fund and major awards from other trusts and foundation, including the Clore Duffield Foundation.

In 2011 Maria took on the role of Director of Manchester City Galleries alongside her duties at the Whitworth. This dual Directorship represents a unique partnership between the University of Manchester and Manchester City Council, bringing the two institutions and Manchester’s historic and modern art collections into complementary alliance for the first time in their history. Retaining their separate governance arrangements and their distinctive personalities the two Galleries will evolve complementary programmes and joint exhibition projects that build on the strength of the city collections and a spirit of Manchester radicalism.

Maria secured a Paul Hamlyn Breakthrough Award in 2010, a £260,000 grant in recognition of her exceptional cultural entrepreneurship. Whitworth Art Gallery also won the 2011 Lever Prize for best cultural organisation in the North West of England.

Maria also took on the role of  Director of Culture for Manchester City Council and in April 2014 the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport appointed Maria Balshaw as a board member of Arts Council England. The appointment is for a term of 4 years, from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2018.

Early career experience included working as Director of Development and External Relations at Arts Council: West Midlands and from 2002 – 2005 she was Director of Creative Partnerships: Birmingham. In 2004, Maria was selected as one of the inaugural Fellows for the Clore Cultural Leadership programme. Before moving into the cultural sector Maria worked as Research Fellow in Urban Culture at the University of Birmingham and as lecturer in Cultural Studies at University College Northampton. She published a number of books and essays on African-American urban culture, gender and visuality.

Maria was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the arts in June 2015.


If you would like further information please use our  staff contacts page  to get in touch.