Art gallery revamp would boost ‘much-loved asset’

Plans for the second phase of improvement works for an art gallery are set to be finalised next week.

 A computer generated image of the new cafe. Photo: Wolverhampton Council
A computer generated image of the new cafe. Photo: Wolverhampton Council

Work had been due to take place at Wolverhampton’s Art Gallery in March last year but it was delayed due to the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now the venue is set to be transformed through a £1.5 million revamp which will see accessibility improved among other improvements.

Councillor Stephen Simkins, Wolverhampton Council cabinet member for city economy, said: “The art gallery is one of the city’s prized assets and we remain committed to phase two of the improvements despite the unprecedented financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit schemes across the globe, nationally and regionally.

“As with all of our major capital projects we will of course ensure it makes financial sense and is in the best interests of the people of Wolverhampton.

“Thanks to successful bids for external grants we are able to carry out these major improvements, which will enhance the visitor experience and allow the gallery to be used to its full potential in the future.”

The cafe at the art gallery will be relocated from the top floor to a larger ground floor location alongside a new kitchen area. Improvements will be carried out to the St Peter’s Gardens entrance to help accessibility.

The work, which is scheduled to start in June this year, has increased in cost due to pressures on the construction sector caused by Covid-19 and Brexit, chiefs have said.

The total budget for phase two is £1.5m – with the additional cost of £450,000 to be met by an Arts Council England KickStart grant for schemes impacted by coronavirus of almost £160,000, plus additional borrowing which will be paid for by income generation from the refurbished gallery.

Asset

Phase one of the improvement work saw the Sensing Sculpture room on the first floor transformed into an exhibition space – allowing the gallery to host larger exhibitions.

The Lichfield Street venue’s Georgian Room was also fully refurbished with other works carried out to improve both the PA system and wi-fi connectivity.

Councillor Simkins added: “With city events in the pipeline to draw people into Wolverhampton, culture forms a key part of our Covid recovery strategy and these improvements will ensure the gallery continues to be a much-loved asset for everyone.

“It is another demonstration of confidence to invest in the city and the art gallery is a key component in the leisure offer for the city along with the Civic Halls and the Grand Theatre.”

Council chiefs have said the move would help support the city’s recovery from coronavirus – planned in their Relighting Our City Strategy.

A report to council leaders said the Art Gallery “can improve and widen the cultural experience for local residents and visitors to the city as part of the overall regeneration of the city centre and will help drive forward the city’s economic recovery.”

And it is hoped by relocating the cafe to the ground floor, the venue will become more “visible and attractive” due to potentially attracting more customers. It has been projected there will be an increase in the number of wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships after the improvements.

Wolverhampton Council will discuss the scheme on Wednesday.

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