We appreciate being consulted in the initial discussion over a possible re-development of the Graves central library / gallery building, and we are keen to be involved in future consultations and proposals.
We recognise the financial difficulties the city finds itself in and indeed, we would suggest the City Council makes more explicit just how changes in funding from Westminster Government have adversely affected their ability to provide services, and the difficult choices councillors are having to make. Certainly, we recognise the need to be creative about finding solutions. In 2015/2016, Museums Sheffield hosted the city-wide “Going Public” exhibition and conference which was designed to stimulate discussion between private philanthropy and the public art sector, examining global trends in philanthropic funding as well as exploring the various means by which public art institutions could unlock the potential of philanthropy within the specific context of the north of England.
It was well received locally, nationally and internationally, but, significantly, also supported and well received by bodies like the Arts Council who were impressed that MS was seeking to move beyond traditional avenues for exhibition materials, for exhibition venues, and funding streams. It was also supported by the Henry Moore Foundation, and by the City Council itself, as well as by Sheffield Hallam University, and by Montabonel and Partners. That is an important reputation. We are concerned that the City, which supported 'Going Public', is not now taking full advantage of that experience.
See Report on 'Going Public' http://www.museums-sheffield.org.uk/assets/PDFs/Going%20Public%20-%20The%20Report%20by%20Louisa%20Buck.pdf
We are interested in any development related to cultural provision in the city, and this includes the whole of the current functions in the Graves building. However our focus is on the future of the Graves Gallery, and access to, and availability of, the city's art collection (which is of major national worth, and international importance) for both the people of Sheffield and for visitors to the city. You have asked for suggestions about the future consultation processes.
Can we suggest that you make some space specifically to discuss the gallery? In the recent public meetings, most of the discussion was about the library and the physicality of the building, rather unsatisfactorily for those of us whose main interest is the visual arts perspective.
We did have some access to the plans for the building, in the Surrey Street Central project. What efforts are at present being made to find funding for that project, which was intended not only to deal with the physical problems with the building but also to bring together (to some degree) the library functions and display of visual arts? The 'Going Public' experience may be helpful here.
In responding to the suggestion that the Graves Gallery be retained within the building if converted into a hotel, we would like to see assurances that the floor space be at least the same as now. There need to be particular assurances associated with hosting a publicly owned collection within a building which houses a privately owned hotel. These relate to such factors as physical access being separate from the hotel access: you shouldn’t have to enter the hotel reception to enter the gallery; the hours of access for the public (including school and specialist groups) need to be at least equivalent to access now; there needs to be the usual provision of toilets, cafe, shop etc. within the Gallery as is customary in a major regional gallery; the Gallery should also be available for special activities, such as the evening promenade event last year associated with Shakespeare's 400-year legacy; the independence of exhibition content and gallery management; the proper provision of environmental controls and monitoring (to ensure the condition of works of art), and other such factors. All these must be guaranteed, and explicitly built in to any proposals.
Lastly, we wonder what the fall-back position will be if these development plans fail, or if they fail during the construction of the hotel and the Gallery. There is a need to have some ideas for a Plan B.
We hope that you will understand from our comments here that we are keen to be involved, and to work with you on our suggestions.
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