The Hours, 1882 by Sir Edward Burne-Jones © Museums Sheffield


Welcome to Sheffield Visual Arts Group

Who We Are

The Sheffield Visual Arts Group was originally formed in 2011 as a response to the threatened closure of the Graves Art Gallery by the cash-strapped city council and its subsequent decision to restrict its opening hours.  Acknowledging the difficulties facing the city council at a time of financial austerity, we said that the UK’s fourth largest city should nevertheless:


     Demonstrate its recognition that the arts are central to our cultural and

     economic wellbeing, not a dispensable recreational activity.


     Show a clear commitment to finding new resources.


     Set out ambitious, credible plans for developing Sheffield’s art provision in the



     Make available much more of the city’s visual art collection.


     Invest in the staff of Museums Sheffield, whose expertise will be crucial in meeting

     these objectives.


Our Standpoint

We believe that even at a time of severe public spending cuts, the city cannot stand still.  There is substantial evidence of the economic and cultural benefits that flow from promoting a city’s visual and cultural heritage - the examples of the flourishing Hepworth Gallery at Wakefield and Turner Gallery in Margate justify prioritising Sheffield’s investment in its art collection.

However, we believe the role of the arts in the life of the city goes far beyond this.  Sheffield has always been about inventing, creating, making and doing - this Year of Making 2016 has been a celebration of Sheffield’s vibrancy.  Likewise, the city has been at the forefront of many important developments – clean air, affordable housing, cheap public transport, inventive urban design and planning.  But in the past our civic leaders have recognised the contribution of the arts to social advance. 


Enid Hattersley, in addition to being Lord Mayor, was Chair of the city’s Libraries and Arts Committee from 1968-1980, and embodied the view that Sheffield people would embrace excellence in culture if given access to the best art, music and drama.  Together with Frank Constantine, the Director of Arts, she encouraged the modernisation of the city’s collections.  Their vision ensured that Sheffield nurtured the talents of its children, including John Hoyland and Jack Smith, who went on to become internationally recognised painters. 


Similarly, during the 1980s, the council still managed to support the growing cultural industries, using its buildings to provide homes for musicians, film makers and others, promoting new career paths for the city’s residents including many who were unemployed. It is this same awareness and commitment, we believe, that should inform Sheffield’s approach during the present economic crisis to investing in the creative talents of its citizens and in its visual art collections.


Planning for the Future

Today, Sheffield’s art sector is expanding, with a diversity of art practices within the City, together with the infrastructure of exhibition and studio spaces, both new - such as the Art House and ROCO - and more established, such as the Site Gallery, Cupola Gallery, Persistence Works and S1.

Creative endeavour is not self-sustaining.  It involves active engagement with the past; a dialogue that moves backwards and forwards in time across the generations.  This is why it is vital that access to Sheffield’s historical collections should not be restricted.  The Visual Arts Group came together in response to the immediate problems around the Graves Gallery.  But we see finding long-term solutions for the display of Sheffield’s major art collections as being inseparable from support for a wide range of contemporary art practices; both are fundamental to the future life of the City.

We know these are difficult times and the city is faced with some hard decisions - however as in past moments of crisis and change, we believe these can be the best of times to think clearly and set out ambitious and realisable plans for the future.


Sheffield Visual Arts Group Objectives

     To promote the city’s outstanding collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture.

     To improve access to the city’s collections and to expand these collections.

     To develop, with others, a long-term strategy for the arts relevant to all the citizens

     of Sheffield.


What We Do

     Meet regularly to find ways of promoting our aims.

     Meet with representatives of the city council and Museums Sheffield.

     Support the activities of other cultural organisations in Sheffield.

     Hold an annual public Study Day to discuss topical issues relevant to Sheffield.


If you would like to join us, want to Contact Us, or simply receive our Newsletter regularly, please email:    We’d love to hear from you.


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