Art school appoints new director as fire probe continues

Penny Macbeth will take up her new role nearly two years after a second fire ravaged the school.

Art school appoints new director as fire probe continues
New boss: Penny Macbeth

Glasgow School of Art (GSA) has appointed a new director.

Penny Macbeth, who is currently Dean of Manchester School of Art and deputy faculty pro-vice-chancellor for Arts and Humanities, will take up her new post in May.

The announcement comes as investigations continue into the second blaze to hit the art school’s Mackintosh Building in recent years.

The world-renowned building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was extensively damaged when a fire broke out late on June 15, 2018 as it neared the end of a £35m restoration project following a previous fire in May 2014.

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Art school bosses have previously said they are confident the Mackintosh building will be rebuilt.

Ms Macbeth said: “I am honoured to be invited to lead the school and to become part of its creative community at this significant point in its long and successful history.

“The Glasgow School of Art has an enviable global reputation and, while not without its challenges and complexities, continues to be a high performing and hugely accessible institution.

“Importantly, as one of the last 19th century schools of design to retain its independence, the school continues to demonstrate the important role of art schools in understanding our past and shaping our future, and I look forward to working with staff, students and the school’s wider creative network and friends on the next chapter of the GSA’s history.”

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Professor Tom Inns left his post in November 2018 following the second fire, and was replaced by interim director Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam.

She now returns to her previous role as a deputy director at the art school.

Muriel Gray, chairwoman of the GSA board of governors and its selection panel, said: “The board is delighted that we have found an outstanding individual to lead the school as it strengthens its global standing and builds the foundations for its future as an independent School of Art.”

A damning report published last year by MSPs called for a public inquiry to establish the facts around the second fire.

It criticised the school’s risk management and raised concerned about the length of time taken for a mist suppression system to be installed in the Mackintosh building.

MSPs questioned whether more could have been done in the interim period between the two fires to protect the building.