Vale - Penny Finnigan

The University of Newcastle’s Art Community is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Penny Finnigan.  A passionate advocate for the arts, Penny’s long connection with Watt Space gallery has been instrumental in its longevity, profile and continued focus on the student experience.

Penny’s initial connection with Watt Space was as a student member of the committee in the early 1990s.  She subsequently returned to work as the Gallery Director between 1996 and 1999 and returned as curator of Watt Space in 2012, a position that she has held since that time.

During Penny’s association with Watt Space, the gallery developed from a student based initiative to an established feature of the local art community providing motivation and inspiration for students as they gain the knowledge and confidence required to become contributors to the arts world. As a Gallery Director and Curator, Penny contributed a wealth of knowledge to the management and presentation of Watt Space, gained from many years working with community galleries in Newcastle and Broken Hill as well as a range of arts committees.  As an educator, she was a generous and committed teacher for the many student scholars, interns, committee members and exhibitors that she worked with.  The work embedded learning opportunities offered by Penny through the gallery was acknowledged by the Vice Chancellor’s award for Work Integrated Learning in 2013.

In recent years, Penny’s contribution to the refurbishment of Northumberland House for the creation of the new gallery was critical in ensuring that the space was fit for purpose.  Penny’s insistence that the gallery be completed to the highest standard was typical of her belief in the future of Watt Space and the importance of providing the very best experience for the students of the University of Newcastle.  The success of the Northumberland House refurbishment was recognised by Watt Space taking out the prestigious Blacket Prize in 2016.

Penny regularly utilised her connections with the art community to enhance the operation and presentation of Watt Space.  Most recently she orchestrated a roof mural for Northumberland House by well known UON alumnus, Lucas Grogan as well as organising an artist in residence project that featured renowned artist, Ian Burns. She was very aware of the origins and history of Watt Space as a student led initiative and this was at the heart of her work.

Penny’s funeral will be held next Monday, 3 July at 10.00am, at White Lady Funeral Chapel, 80 Maitland Road Mayfield.