Gymnasium gallery set to reopen doors
Berwick Visual Arts is on the verge of securing a lease on the Gymnasium Gallery following eight months of negotiations with venue owner English Heritage.
The gallery, located on the town walls next to the barracks, has lain empty since December 2011, when the now defunct Gymnasium Gallery project saw its funding withdrawn.
It was widely assumed that the Arts Council-funded Berwick Visual Arts, launched by The Maltings Trust in April last year, would take the gallery forward.
But the gallery has remained closed for over a year, with Berwick Visual Arts recently coming under fire from some members of the community for not using the space, and producing a limited programme of exhibitions.
In a letter to The Advertiser, Simon Heald, a former Gymnasium Gallery employee, wrote: “It seems that Arts Council funded contemporary visual arts in Berwick have taken a step backwards. The previous engagement and integration within Berwick appears to have been cast aside, and can’t even be said to have been replaced with a different ethos or approach.”
But Berwick Visual Arts, which supported last year’s successful open exhibition at Berwick Watchtower with a £1500 grant, insists it has been working hard behind the scenes to source an exciting and innovative arts programme for the town.
James Lowther, who was appointed head of Visual Arts last August, said: “This year promises to be an exciting one for visual arts in Berwick and beyond. We will continue to enable the people of Berwick-upon-Tweed to enjoy some truly exceptional artwork.”
Mr Lowther revealed that the transition of the Berwick Gymnasium from English Heritage to Berwick Visual Arts had been far from seamless, with the latter being required to meet unexpected costs to take the space forward, including an annual service charge, a new alarm system, and the installation of separate gas and electricity metres.
But negotiations are now finally coming to a close, and an initial programme of exhibitions has been announced.
“We are excited that the complex negotiations with English Heritage are about to pay off so that the Berwick Gymnasium can re-open,” Mr Lowther said. “Whilst the funding from Arts Council England does not require Berwick Visual Arts to utilise the Gymnasium, we believe the venue should continue to play a key role in the visual arts offer in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
“Our proposed programme brings some of the highest quality artists to town and builds on the venue’s reputation for showing some of the best contemporary art in the region. We look forward to English Heritage concluding the lease and finally being able to make this programme a reality.”
Having secured English Heritage’s agreement in principal to re-open the property, Berwick Visual Arts has announced that a number of exciting exhibitions will take place there in 2013. The first, in May, will be Doug Fishbone’s ‘Adventure Land Golf’, a nine-hole crazy golf course designed by some of the UK’s most celebrated visual artists. This will be followed in June by the video installation ‘High Wire’ by acclaimed British artist Catherine Yass.
Berwick Visual Arts will also continue to work with the Berwick Preservation Society to programme exhibitions at The Granary Gallery. The Ruth Borchard Collection of self-portraits opens there next week, and a joint exhibition with Woodhorn Museum, ‘The Noblest Shore’ by Scottish painter Ramsay Gibb will show at the Granary in July.
September will see the premiere of a new piece of work by Berwick Visual Arts’ first artist-in-residence, Cecilia Stenbom, at the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival, and applications are currently open for the second residency opportunity.
Berwick Visual Arts is also developing a programme of professional development opportunities for artists living and working in and around Berwick in partnership with AN – the artists information company and Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN).
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Weather for Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: South east