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.
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.
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."
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."