Dramatic plea from Walsall: ‘Save our gallery’
New Art Gallery Walsall’s director Stephen Snoddy has issued a dramatic plea to supporters to help save the venue from local government cuts that could close it.
In a letter to stakeholders, exhibitors and funders, Snoddy writes: “At this moment The New Art Gallery Walsall is under threat of closure due to Walsall Council proposing to withdraw its revenue grant over the next 4 years from April 2017. This will jeopardise our forthcoming National Portfolio Organisation bid to the Arts Council for just over £3.5 million for 2018-22 (c881k per annum). The Arts Council require a level of local partnership in order to continue their funding; the two are therefore inextricably linked”.
He has asked for shows of support to be sent to Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council by November 30.
The award-winning New Art Gallery, Walsall, was opened in 2000 as a beacon in Tony Blair's "Golden Age" of culture at a cost of £21m with £15.75m from the National Lottery. Snoddy has been told that Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council's annual £800,000 grant might be reduced by 25% a year to zero by 2020, a loss of income the gallery, which attracts 180,00 visitors a year, could not sustain. The cut may be matched by a similar reduction in the Arts Council's grant of £900,000 a year. Snoddy said the gallery’s local authority funding had been cut by £500,000 in six years, and £190,00 a year less is being spent on staffing than five years ago. Meanwhile, ACE has maintained its funding at the same level for 11 years.
“It might also be pertinent to say that The New Art Gallery opened before Tate Modern” he added “and it would be no exaggeration to say that without Walsall’s pioneering example, would other places like Middlesbrough, Margate, Wakefield and Nottingham have taken on the challenges that such projects bring?”