A restructure proposal, which could see the disestablishment of the director and chief curator at Wellington's City Gallery, has been described as "ruinous" and far-reaching.
Experience Wellington, which is a Wellington City Council controlled organisation, operates Capital E, Space Place, City Gallery, Nairn Street Cottage, Wellington Museum, and the Cable Car Museum.
Earlier this month it announced a confidential restructure proposal, which it is now consulting on with its 147 staff.
The key drivers behind the proposal are better collaboration and adding a Māori dimension to everything the organisation does, the Herald has learned.
A new role of Head of Māori engagement is being proposed, which would be a part of the executive leadership team.
Covid-19 has also put pressure on operating budgets, so working more collaboratively as one team has been pitched as a way to help ensure care is taken with every dollar spent.
According to Experience Wellington's latest annual report 153,676 people physically visited City Gallery in 2018/19.
The following year was affected by the Covid-19 outbreak when these visits dropped to 111,365.
It's unclear how many jobs would be affected by the proposal, but the key City Gallery positions of director, Elizabeth Caldwell, and chief curator, Robert Leonard, could be disestablished under the more centralised plan, the Herald understands.
The consultation period finishes on May 9, followed by two weeks of analysis and discussions, with final decisions on organisational structure to be made by May 26.
Bowen Galleries emailed stakeholders yesterday calling on them to "save the gallery" by writing to Wellington City Council and the Experience Wellington board to let them know the changes would be ruinous.
The email was sent by Bowen Galleries directors Jenny Neligan and Penney Moir along with Greg O'Brien, who has worked at City Gallery as a curator.
They described the changes as structural, substantial, and far-reaching.
"They will dramatically and forever change the nature of the Gallery, how it operates, and what it can deliver. Deprofessionalisation will undermine the specialist networks and relationships that have enabled the Gallery to secure key loans and exhibitions, such as the upcoming Hilma af Klint show."
The trio said City Gallery is a hub for the arts and culture sector locally and nationally.
"The community has a right to know the details of the change proposal and to feed into the discussion. To that end, we want Experience Wellington and the Council to make the change proposal public and engage in open stakeholder discussion."
Experience Wellington chief executive Dr Sarah Rusholme acknowledged the passion of those in the arts sector, but refuted suggestions the gallery was under threat.
"City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi will continue to showcase the best contemporary art under a strong cultural leader, supported by two curators, and specialist staff dedicated to art education, gallery exhibition delivery and art community engagement.
"The change proposal is about enhancing our institutions, including City Gallery, through better allocation of resources and greater collaboration across the portfolio, and embracing of te ao Māori,"
With little information in the public arena about the proposal, rumours have been swirling City Gallery could close its doors for good.
But Arts, Culture and Events portfolio leader city councillor Nicola Young said that wasn't true.
She said City Galley is one of Wellington's treasures and it would not be closing under her watch.
Young declined to comment on the restructure proposal.