Meet Dr Maria Balshaw CBE, director of Tate!

Maria Balshaw is Director of Tate, a role she has held since June 2017. She has overall responsibility for Tate’s strategic direction and day to day operations. As Director, Maria is also the Accounting Officer appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Previously, as Director of the Whitworth, University of Manchester and Manchester City Galleries, Maria was responsible for the artistic and strategic vision for each gallery. As Director of Culture for Manchester City Council from 2013-2017, Maria played a leading role in establishing the city as a major cultural centre.

Maria is a Board Member of The Clore Leadership Programme and Manchester International Festival, she was a Board Member of Arts Council England until March 2018. Maria was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the arts in June 2015.

10 minutes with Maria…

How would you describe what you do in 5 words?

Art, people, artists, ideas, money.

What was your first job?

Washing pots in an American Diner.

What was your worst job?

Production line packing at Speedibake, Northampton. 

What achievement are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my two now adult children but their wonderfulness is entirely their own achievement, so in work terms I would say the beautiful expansion of The Whitworth by MUMA (which I hope many of you visiting Manchester for Clore Emerging Futures 2018 will go and see).

What’s your greatest fear for the creative and cultural sector?

That we give in to fear.

What are your three unexpected qualities any leader needs?

Kindness, tenacity, bounce-back ability (with thanks to Keith Merrin).

What’s your superpower? (A thing you do better than most!)


What motivates you every day?

Seeing people in Tate’s galleries, exploring curiously.  That and cake.

What was the best piece of early career advice you received from a mentor?

Work isn’t always immediately or straight-forwardly fair.  But if you work hard and do a good job, it will (eventually) be noticed, and rewarded.

What advice of your own would you give to an aspiring or emerging leader?

Be who you are, not who you think you need to be.


Maria Balshaw is our Big Ideas keynote speaker at Emerging Futures 2018, where she will be discussing the role leadership in cultural institutions, and how those spaces meet the needs of our ever-changing society.

If you can’t make the event in person, find out how you can join in on the day here

You can follow her on Twitter @mbalshaw