Save Newport Art Gallery Temporary Exhibitions Programme

Actor MICHAEL SHEEN . . .  Friend Of Newport Art Gallery
Actor MICHAEL SHEEN . . . Friend Of Newport Art Gallery

FRIENDS OF Newport Art Gallery are appealing to Newport City Council to Save the Newport Art Gallery Temporary Exhibitions Programme (T.E.P.)

Newport City Council’s proposed budget cuts in the Learning and Leisure budget will see the Temporary Exhibitions Programme (T.E.P.) scrapped and the post of visual arts officer made redundant.

The visual arts officer (VAO) is the artistic programmer for the gallery space – a specialist post that has been in place for over 25 years.

For a saving of £40,000 the budget proposal will see the gallery lose the programme in its entirety as a public service.

In August 2012 the newly refurbished spaces were launched with an exhibition of paintings by Geraint Evans – Cllr. Debbie Wilcox helped open it and sang its praises.

Why are supporters of the TEP not being given the opportunity to present a case to Cllr Debbie Wilcox, Newport Council Member for Culture – given Cllr Wilcox’s previous public support for the TEP?

The TEP provides the Council and city with long term strategic potential, e.g. – it could be a conduit to draw down significant additional Arts Council of Wales (ACW) investment in the future.

The gallery in general only has fixed displays of objects and art and these have remained unchanged for many years. TEP is the only artistic programme in the art gallery.

It is the only dynamic aspect of the art gallery on offer.

The TEP is set to be replaced with a single static exhibition drawn from the permanent collections with no further programming after that.

The TEP has enjoyed sustained success and maintained its visitor numbers in recent years – it is also supported by grant funding from Arts Council of Wales (ACW).

The 2013 programme was set to present 14 exhibitions including some major names and the number of exhibitions was set to double this year despite a smaller budget with diminishing staffing resources – GREAT value for money.

The plan to scrap TEP has wider implications: it appears short sighted and removing it surely damages the city’s cultural offer.

Presumably the current ACW grant will have to be returned if the TEP is scrapped?

At a time when the city seeks to define itself as progressive, attractive and relevant, this seems to fly in the face of its ‘Open for Business’ banner.

An online petition has already gained over 1000 signatures in just 8 days.

Comments on the petition strongly demonstrate both the case for TEP as a visitor attraction and as a much used and appreciated local service.

The artistic community of Wales is a great supporter of Newport Art Gallery TEP, as evidenced by rumoured high level talks between ACW and NCC and all the comments on the online petition.

The TEP is a Newport success story which brings in vital arts funding, cultural tourism and is great value for money.

The City Council are throwing it away. The council have still not put this and countless other budget proposals into the public domain. As it stands this proposal will be approved on 26th February 2013 without any public knowledge or consultation.

The council are paying lip service to public consultation – their website invites comments on the budget but nowhere can the actual details of the budget be obtained.

According to local reports Newport Council gave £40,000 to the Welsh open Snooker tournament (on at the Newport centre right now). The same amount they’ll save by cutting TEP which was due to deliver a year’s worth of ‘free’ culture for all – go figure?

Meanwhile, news was broken by Unison on February 5th that the Museum and Art Gallery as well as the Central Library. who all share the same building, are definitely going to close in the financial year 2014/15.

A weakened and watered down version of the museum and library will occupy the live music space in Newport Centre (ending income generating live music there too!).

The Art Gallery will move to the Riverfront. It is unclear how this could all be feasible.

The closure of the TEP and other services in 2013 is part of the preparation process for the 2014 cuts to much loved and value for money services.