Oriel Wrecsam Gallery (OW) has been awarded capital funding of £2.3 million from the Arts Council of Wales for a new art and cultural hub in the People’s Market in Wrexham town centre. Construction is anticipated to start in January 2017 with the gallery’s relaunch in spring 2018.
Oriel Wrecsam left its previous home of 42 years in the town’s library last March. In recent years the gallery has worked with local education providers, market traders and partners in the arts and cultural industries to build up support for the People’s Market project, which will see new studio provision, a doubling of OW’s current exhibition space at its Chester Street site, and mixed use spaces for events and conferences.
A food court and bar will aim to complement the improved opportunities for market trading and retail within the People’s Market.
“We will draw on a rich seam of creative thinking in Wrexham that stretches back to papermaking for the first bank notes and world class ironwork,” said Steffan Jones-Hughes, arts manager at Oriel Wrecsam.
“We believe that this new space will harness Wrexham’s history of risk and experimentation by providing future generations with opportunities in this creative town.”
The award from the Arts Council of Wales builds on £1.5 million of investment from Wrexham Council and support from the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places programme, allowing architects Featherstone Young to ambitiously reimagine the multi-storey car park and indoor market as a multi-purpose hub.
“This project provides an exciting opportunity to create an innovative hub for creative activity that will inspire and nurture the ambition of communities across Wrexham and the wider area,” said Kath Davies, director of investment and funding services with Arts Council of Wales.
“This is an unique opportunity for the arts community and market traders to work alongside each other to develop a vibrant space which will play a key part in the regeneration of the town centre.”
Commenting on the project, artist and co-director of Cardiff’s g39, Chris Brown, said: “Like any successful major cultural project, Oriel Wrecsam has been careful to be responsive to its context and has worked in consultation with the people of Wrexham…
“Given due respect and trust, Oriel Wrecsam’s impact on the town in the long-term will be fundamental and transformative.”
Welsh arts cuts
The ACW capital investment comes at a time when the funding body is responding to a £1.5m annual cut in its own grant from the Welsh government – equal to nearly 5% of its annual budget.
Most of the resulting cuts will come from Wales’ 67 Revenue Funded Organisations (RFOs), although those receiving less than £150,000 a year will be spared. ACW has allocated £25.8m of revenue funding for 2016/17, down from £27.1m in 2015/16.
Meanwhile, recent demonstrations against proposed cuts to the arts by Cardiff City Council resulted in a partial victory, with Artes Mundi, the Cardiff Singer of the World event and various community projects retaining their funding.
The £87,000 budget for the Cardiff Contemporary art festival has been partially reinstated, with £37,000 retained while ‘alternative funding sources’ will be identified for the remaining £50,000.