By Sheree Hoddinett
It’s been a big change for Chloe Tanner but she’s settling into her role as the new director at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology. She is energetic and excited about bringing her wealth of knowledge and experience into the museum and everything it entails - including the Abbey Medieval Festival. Chloe certainly has big shoes to fill, taking over from Edith Cuffe who has held the role for many years, but she’s not deterred.
Chloe made the move from South Australia late last year to take up the director’s position. She’s getting used to the local area and already falling in love with the region.
“It’s been a big change but I’m already loving it,” Chloe said. “It’s certainly different from South Australia, but for all the right reasons. I’m loving living and working in such an amazing part of the state and country.
“Being surrounded by our natural environment is good for our well-being. Being able to look at the ocean every day and arrive at the lush surrounds of the Abbey Museum overlooking the chapel, is absolutely beautiful. It's such a rich, natural environment I wasn’t expecting.”
With fresh eyes and clear vision, Chloe is looking forward to implementing a myriad of ideas in 2023 and beyond.
“I’ve stepped into a role that was held by someone who is extremely skilled in what they do, both Edith and of course Michael Strong being the head curator,” Chloe said. “The work has been incredibly well-researched and Edith's vision over the decades has been absolutely impressive. Their two brains together have been the foundation of the entire museum and festival. “The vision and the strategy I have will build on the incredible work that has been done and pivot. We need to open our doors to the wider public and we need people to know about the hidden treasures we have here.”
Well aware of the impact Covid has had over the last couple of years, Chloe recognises the importance of funding from Moreton Bay Regional Council and also the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport in Queensland, which will see a new art gallery and café built in 2024.
“In 18 months, we will be opening the doors to our new art gallery and cafe,” Chloe said. “We are going to create an experience for people to engage in art, artefacts, history and stories that create wonder, connect us to ourselves, to each other and to country. I want people to be able to connect to their natural environment and to the history of the human story, one of darkness and depth, as well as light and joy.
“I'm extremely excited about the new art gallery which will hold both temporary and permanent exhibitions and also hold our own collection for the very first time. It is my personal passion to nurture young artists and we hope to provide a space where they can also show their work.”
Underpinning it all, is of course the Abbey Medieval Festival. Chloe is excited to be a part of the “action”.
“It’s going to be wild!” she said. “I already have my Medieval and Viking outfits chosen, thanks to our sewing volunteers.
“I know I'll be absolutely blown away. We're already in full planning mode for the festival with less than six months to go. I’m feeling great about it and because I come from a festival background, I love the buzz it creates. I am very lucky to have an extremely competent and professional event manager (Joel) leading the event.
“Michael and Edith are fully supporting us and on call with advice. I think it is a testament to how beautiful this entire community is, to have a previous director that supports you from the wings is an incredible privilege. Most people would never get that.”
Taking on board feedback from last year’s event, Chloe and the team are already implementing changes ahead of this year’s festival.
“I come from a marketing background and so my number one priority is seeing the customer experience elevated,” she said. “My priority is having people walk in and just say, wow and be in awe of the festival and their weekend, without having the pain points that can often dampen their experience. I'm always asking my team to wear that hat and see it from the customer’s perspective.
“We also have an incredible body of volunteers, up to 350 volunteers that we could not operate without. As volunteering declines, we feel very lucky with the dedicated and loyal helpers we’ve had for such a long time.”
Chloe brings with her a wealth of worldly, educational and professional experience. Her father is from Minnesota in the United States, her mum is from Adelaide and each of her siblings was born in a different part of the world. Her parents work in international aid and development and Chloe spent most of her younger years moving around the world. She had a keen interest in studying history and different cultures, which she did through a program at the University of Oxford, before studying marketing and international business which led her into the corporate world for a decade. Serving on multiple boards as a professional board director, Chloe has also been a practising jazz singer, with music and the arts expressed from an early age. Chloe pays tribute to both her grandmothers Johanna and June, for the legacy they instilled in her.
“I've not walked a linear path, I truly have an insatiable appetite for learning and new experiences,” Chloe said. “Catapulting myself into challenges is how I’m motivated.
“I never thought that all the odd jobs I’ve had, starting with a pizza bar when I was 15, would accumulate to something this exciting. I am very privileged to be leading the Abbey Museum and Festival.”