Glasgow School of Art has appointed a temporary leader following the sudden departure of director Tom Inns in the wake of a storm of controversy over its stewardship of its iconic Mackintosh Building after it was devastated by two major fires in the space of four years.
Former head of design Irene McAra-McWilliam has been appointed director for the next year by the art school’s under-fire board.
Prof McAra-McWilliam has been a deputy director at the institution since 2016, the same year she was awarded an OBE.
The interim appointment has been announced less than a month after the resignation of Prof Inns amid growing questions over the fire protection measures which were in place when the two blazes broke out.
Experts have called for the GSA to be stripped of responsibility for the restoration of the Mackintosh Building after the latest fire, which struck during a £49 million restoration following the previous fire in 2014.
However, its board has told MSPs it has “no regrets” over how it has cared for the building in recent years and would not change anything over the way it has been looked after.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is still conducting its official investigation into the most recent blaze in June, which left the famous building in ruins and also devastated the neighbouring O2 ABC nightclub and music venue.
A statement from the art school said its board would be carrying out a “full candidate search” for a replacement for Prof Inns, previously head at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, who was appointed in May 2013.
It added: “The board wishes Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam every success in her new role and is confident that the Art School will continue to be a successful, independent and internationally highly esteemed art school under her leadership.”
Prof McAra-McWilliam said: “I’m honoured to have been appointed as director of the Glasgow School of Art.
“Although we’ve recently had to deal with a very challenging period, I’m confident that we have the soul and spirit to move ahead, aware of just what a successful and innovative art school we are.
“Together, we can build on our long history of creativity and innovation as one of the world’s finest art schools.
“We’ll focus on the future, re-engage with our diverse communities, and re-energise the GSA with the rebuild of the Mackintosh Building and our proud history and heritage at its core.”