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Power of arts, culture and heritage top of mind for Experience Wellington’s new CE

New chief executive of experience Wellington, Dr Sarah Rusholme, says the organisation’s visitor attractions have a unique role to play in Wellington’s recovery from COVID-19.

"As we emerge from the pandemic, Experience Wellington can play a powerful role in revitalising our city," says Dr Rusholme.

"As a proud Wellingtonian, I’m excited to welcome people back to the experiences we offer. Now’s the time to explore and be uplifted by homegrown talent, ideas, art and history and support the local tourism industry.

"I am delighted to lead the fantastic team at Experience Wellington as we continue to create remarkable art, culture and science attractions that generate vitality, enriching the city we love."

Experience Wellington is a Council-owned organisation offering experiences unlike anywhere else in New Zealand. They include Capital E, which nurtures young peoples’ curiosity, and is the home of the National Arts Festival and National Theatre for Children, Space Place at Carter Observatory, City Gallery Wellington and the much-loved Wellington Museum. These, and Experience Wellington’s other offerings, all contribute to the city’s economy and reputation as a centre of excellence for arts, culture and creativity.

"From Te Ngakau Civic Square to the waterfront and the top of the Cable Car, the experiences we offer are woven into the fabric of the city. I strongly encourage the community to come along, reconnect and feel inspired by the amazing stories, art and heritage that make our city so special."

Dr Rusholme holds a PhD in genetics, but quickly realised she preferred to be outside the lab. She took on an MSc in science communication, and became involved in journalism – fuelling her passion for storytelling. After completing her doctorate, she helped bring the UK’s 55 million-pound National Space Centre to fruition, and left eight years later as their Director of Education and Exhibitions.

After moving to New Zealand with her family in 2006, she worked for the Marsden Fund and led the feasibility study for NZ’s Science Media Centre and became the Director of Carter Observatory in 2007. Dr Rusholme was instrumental in leading a large fundraising project to update and enhance its facilities, making it the visitor experience it is today – attracting nearly 50,000 people a year.

She joined Experience Wellington in 2010, leading Capital E – a playful, creative offering for young people and the city’s third most visited place for school children. Under Dr Rusholme’s leadership funding has grown substantially. Capital E is a Creative New Zealand Toi Totara Haemata programme recipient, ensuring young people from pre-school through to high school can explore and grow their creative spark.

"Creativity is a huge part of Capital E, and initiatives such as children’s theatre, digital offerings and the National Arts Festival for Children have grown significantly under Sarah’s leadership," says Experience Wellington’s board chair, Jackie Lloyd.

"Her approach to collaborative partnerships has contributed to the success of Capital E and will be key in her new role."

Dr Rusholme began her position as chief executive on June 22. Dr Rusholme replaces Pat Stuart who has led Experience Wellington for the last 12 years and is moving onto other ventures.

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