Kirsten Lacy stands facing a crowd of Tangata Whenua shoulder-to-shoulder with Pākehā. Her opening speech for Toi o Tāmaki Auckland Art Gallery’s latest exhibition Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia, travelling from the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), flows freely between te reo Māori language and English. Her connection with the room is warm, and genuine.
Lacy has been director at the Gallery since 2019. She did not know te reo when she arrived, but has learned largely through her staff and by participating in a staff choir, which she set up. Creating communities comes naturally to Lacy. During art school, she set up an artist-run gallery in Melbourne. She went on to hold positions with Heide Museum of Modern Art and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and, at just 27, was appointed Director, Shepparton Art Museum in regional Victoria, a position she held for eight years (2007–2015).