Why closing Walsall's New Art Gallery would leave the town with nothing

A respected artist from Walsall has called the councils decision to close down the towns New Art Gallery 'irrational' and 'ill conceived.

Internationally acclaimed Walsall artist Andrew Tift  backs the bid to save the New Walsall Art Gallery
Internationally acclaimed Walsall artist Andrew Tift backs the bid to save the New Walsall Art Gallery

Artist Andrew Tift, who has worked as a professional artist for more than 20 years, recently pleaded with the council not to close down the art gallery through a poster.

Now he has used his words to get residents to fight the closure.

The artwork created by Andrew
The artwork created by Andrew

Born in Great Wyrley, Mr Tift went from the village’s High School to Stafford College of Art to do a foundation course in art and drawing, and then to Birmingham Art College, and a BA Hons and MA with distinction in illustration.

He calls the Art Gallery, which is facing closure as Walsall Council try to make £86 million in four years, an 'incredible, majestic, state of the art, world class gallery'.

Speaking to the Express & Star, Mr Tift said: "Fifteen years ago, against all the odds we got an incredible, majestic, state of the art, World class art gallery perched incongruously between BHS and Woolworths.

"It was funded by Lottery money and European funding and not a penny came from the local purse.

"Every time I walk past it I still can’t quite can’t believe that it actually happened and came to fruition.

"The best thing that ever happened to Walsall and now Walsall council want to close it down.

"Without New Art Gallery, Walsall – the town has nothing."

Andrew Tift
Andrew Tift

In recent weeks, Walsall Council have announced the gallery will close by 2020 – unless council tax significantly rises or central government relaxes its austerity measures.

As well as the closure of the art gallery, Walsall Council has also warned that by 2020 14 of the 15 libraries and the leather museum could be shut and the local history centre relocated to the only remaining library on Lichfield Street.

A petition has been launched calling on the council not to make the closures to the Art Gallery.

Mr Tift said: "I am a local artist and when I go to art events in London and sometimes further afield in Europe and America I’m proud to talk about New Art Gallery, Walsall and it is respected as one of the very best regional art galleries in the country and I don’t think we recognise enough in the West Midlands that we have an absolute diamond.

"It’s one of the reasons that I decided to stay in Walsall.

"I understand the austerity cuts and Walsall council are on the ropes but I think they are panicking and making irrational, ill conceived and short term decisions.

"The Arts Council, Walsall Council, New Art Gallery, Walsall and constituency MP’s have to come together and discuss this rationally and find some middle ground."

 

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Comments for: "Why closing Walsall's New Art Gallery would leave the town with nothing"

JJ

The busiest part of the art gallery is Costa. With the rise of the restaurants in the area there are probably other chain restaurants eyeing up the wharf area for the opportunity or more locations. The lobby of the gallery is a large open space perfect for a new restaurant. why not convert it and rent it out and have that pay to keep the gallery open.

Sounds like a really simple solution to me but this is Lazy Walsall council we are taking about here. The consultation they've sent is is more of a threat than anything else. Its basically saying pay up or we are closing everything. There is nothing on the form to provide any opinion because the council doesnt actually care about the opinions of its residents. Trust me.

douggie-b

Whilst I do empathise with you mr Tift, if my choices are to provide a place where people can celebrate fantatsic works of art, or look after the vulnerable, would you suggest the vulnerable be put out to pasture?

I am no politician nor do I hold much love for the council, but your opinion of those who have been elected seems to be that they are not able to perform their role properly. This is a fair opinion to have. But as always when somebody passes a comment or opinion like that, it is only fair to tell you that elections happen on a fixed basis, and you are welcome to put your name down and stand for election if you think you can do it better.

Minion

Bottom line is we can't afford it

ebridgewater

I was in there on Saturday 28 October. It was not only dead (I probably saw 5 people in there, throughout all the floors), there was a massive dearth of artwork on show. A lot of rooms were mostly empty.

Margaret Hamilton

Blame the Tories and their deceitful lying and unnecessary "Austerity" for this terrible state of affairs. No money? Rubbish!! Don't believe them. Let's burn all those books in the libraries too.

ebridgewater

^ Goodness me, talk about an overreaction!