Refurbishment of York Art Gallery
05 November 2004 to 05 February 2005
Maud Sulter's "Terpshichore" as part of the "People" hang, refurbished York Art Gallery
As the curator of art at York Museums Trust, I lead a small and committed team that is reinvigorating the York Art Gallery and improving access to its designated collection of European oil paintings and decorative art. The redisplay of the gallery in 2004, temporary exhibitions that have included loans from the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Contemporary Art Society, together with formal and informal education sessions has resulted in a substantial increase in both general visitors from 90,000 before to 156,000 in the first year since re-opening. Our new, themed displays are closely related to the National Curriculum and school visits have risen from 800 to 2,000 children during 2006. We recently won a Sandford Award for excellence in education. The refurbishment included a new café, shop and education space called The Studio. This has given us the capacity to extend the life of our outreach project, Territories, which is funded by the Arts Council. Through the project we have worked with over 30 community groups in the past two years including Age Concern, Women’s Aid Refuge and the York Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders. Access to the first floor of the building is limited – our solution has been to create a free DVD presentation of the collections displays. During the gallery’s nine-month closure for refurbishment, I managed an audit of the collection and subsequently produced a five year conservation plan that we are now following. This involved persuading the Friends of York Art Gallery to sponsor the conservation of key paintings. I would look forward to taking this further through the Artlease Scheme. At the same time, I managed the photography of the collection by the Public Catalogue Foundation for which I wrote the introductory essay. I have organised many art exhibitions in my career, and at York programme four major exhibitions a year balancing the historic with the contemporary. Smaller focused displays are held in the Little Gallery, which is programmed to showcase new research into the collection. York Museums Trust also manages St Mary’s, a 13th century church, and I commission site-specific projects there. This year saw Echo created by Susie MacMurray.