Plans for the £500,000 renovation of the Wilson Museum and Art Gallery in Cheltenham were unveiled in April 2022.
The Wilson, which is run by The Cheltenham Trust, is set to have a brand new arts cafe on the ground floor; a new community gallery on the mezzanine floor; and the artists’ studios on the third floor, with the aim of transforming the museum into a “significant visitor destination” for the town and the heart of Cheltenham’s new cultural centre.
The ground floor arts cafe will serve as barista coffee and will have three flexible and versatile spaces, each with a different vibe, as well as two main entrances on each side – one leading to the new Minster Exchange and the main entrance existing on Clarence Street.
The cafe’s décor is inspired by The Wilson collection, with wallpaper recreating abstract artwork and fabrics from the Arts and Crafts movement. New artwork is also commissioned for the space, with local artist Katy Welsh also creating screen-printed banners depicting furniture from the museum’s Arts and Crafts collection.
Funding for the project comes from a £250,000 bequest from the Sir Charles Irving Trust in 2020, which was matched by Cheltenham Borough Council in the autumn of 2021 – with the award-winning Bath-based commercial design and build company, Interaction, creating the designs and work on site due to begin in May 2022.
The new gallery space, which will allow local artists to showcase their work, as well as host cultural events and groups, is being named the Sir Charles Irving Community Art Gallery, to create “a lasting legacy” for the community. beloved former MP. and three times mayor of Cheltenham.
The new artist studios will operate on a grant basis, giving local creatives the opportunity to co-create exhibitions and workshops in the community gallery as well.
Cheltenham Trust Chairman Louis Eperjesi said: “We are delighted to announce this exciting redesign of the Wilson. After months of hard work creating the right designs, we are happy to unveil them for everyone to see this vibrant new cultural center for the whole Cheltenham community and visitors.
“The Wilson will offer café culture complemented by a comprehensive cultural program including talks, workshops, creative events, exhibitions and local and national performances, showcasing the best of Cheltenham’s cultural community and history. .”
Cheltenham Borough Council chief executive Gareth Edmundson added: “This is great news for Cheltenham and will also complete the opening of the Minster Exchange and Minster Gardens transformation project in the heart of our town centre.
“The new space will help broaden the appeal of arts and culture to a wider audience and further strengthen this vital community bond. We hope that it will make it possible, in the near future, to present a greater selection of the art collections of the commune through a wider program of exhibitions.
“We have seen a number of new openings on the high street over the past few months and The Wilson will add much more to Cheltenham’s high street offering.”
Tony Hilder, representing the Sir Charles Irving Trust, also said: “The opening of the new Sir Charles Irving Community Art Gallery will bring a new dimension and community focus to the venue and to Cheltenham, while creating a legacy for Sir Charles Irving who will celebrate and showcase the talent of his hometown.
The Wilson has been closed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and is finally due to reopen in the summer of 2022, following renovation.
By Chloe Gorman
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Tuesday 05 April 2022