Newport City Council's plans to scrap the temporary exhibitions programme at Newport Museum and Art Gallery are facing vocal, and high profile, opposition.
A petition to save Newport Museum and Art Gallery's (NMAG) temporary exhibitions programme (TEP) from closure has now reached over 1000 signatures – including high profile support from Hollywood.
Newport City Council’s cuts to the Learning and Leisure budget will see the TEP scrapped and the post of visual arts officer made redundant. This specialist post has been in place for over 25 years, with artistic programming for the gallery space a key part of the job description.
Campaigners want to be given the opportunity to present a case to Councillor Debbie Wilcox (Newport Council Member for Culture) in support of challenging the wisdom of removing the programme. The budget proposal will see the gallery lose the programme in its entirety, with the approximate saving to the council of £40,000.
The TEP has enjoyed sustained success and maintained its visitor numbers in recent years. Emma Geliot, artist and ex-senior visual arts officer for the Arts Council of Wales, commented on her blog: 'NMAG has approximately 28,000 visitors per year, or 90 per day. If they each spend a modest £2.50 (and most cultural tourism multipliers are many times higher) that’s £70,000 that goes into the local community, not to mention rail and bus fares.'
The TEP is set to be replaced with a single static exhibition drawn from the permanent collections, featuring work by artists including L.S.Lowry, Sir Stanley Spencer and Sir William Russell Flint. This undoubtedly raises concerns over the level of support being offered to local emerging artists.
Newport-born Hollywood actor Michael Sheen – who last year opened an exhibition at the gallery – has given his support to the campaign. He said: "I am hugely disturbed to hear of the council's plans to close the gallery’s temporary exhibition programme. This is perilously dangerous for not only artists at work today, both established and emerging, but also for a new generation of young people growing up starved of the inspiration and vision that exposure to art can bring."
Sign the petition here.
Write to the Leader of Newport Council, Councillor Bob Bright.
Jack Hutchinson is an artist, writer and educator. A specialist on the role of digital technology within the visual arts, he is Communications Officer for AIR: Artists Interaction and Representation through a-n The Artists Information Company.