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Arts

Abbot Hall dream moves a step closer

£4.6m grant application approved by Arts Council England

An artist impression view from the bridge

Exciting redevelopment plans for Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal have received a major boost after £4.6m Arts Council England funding was approved.

Lakeland Arts is delighted after its stage two capital grant application was given the green light.

The award has been made from Arts Council England’s Large Capital programme which is funded by the National Lottery.

The total cost of the project is £9.6m. Multi-award-winning MUMA (McInnes Usher McKnight Architects), is the lead architect for the scheme. MUMA was the architect for the redevelopment of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery in 2015.

An artist impression of the North Gallery

Lakeland Arts’ Chief Executive Rhian Harris said: “This fabulous funding news means our dream to redevelop Abbot Hall moves a step closer.

“The planned redevelopment will mean visitors can experience world class art in redesigned exhibition galleries. It would also see improved accessibility and landscaping making Abbot Hall a welcoming and vibrant place that everyone can enjoy.

“We want the new Abbot Hall to be a cultural and community hub for engaging local people and bring culture to new audiences. The redevelopment will enable us to bring great art to Cumbria and also better display our own nationally significant collection of art.

“The redevelopment signifies a considerable investment for Kendal and South Cumbria.”

For more than half-a-century Abbot Hall has built up an outstanding permanent collection of over 6,500 works including work by George Romney and nineteenth century watercolours by artists such as JMW Turner and John Ruskin.

The modern and contemporary collection includes work by Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, David Hockney, Paula Rego and Kurt Schwitters.

Arts Council England capital funding is awarded to organisations to improve buildings and facilities to be able to produce and present great work while bringing benefits to artists, audiences and to the communities where they’re located.

Arts Council England’s Director North, Alison Clark said: “Lakeland Arts is one of the leading cultural organisations in the north and we’re thrilled to be supporting the redevelopment of Abbot Hall with National Lottery investment from our capital funding programme.

“The renovation will provide much better opportunities for showing the outstanding collection at Abbot Hall and the improved accessibility will mean that more people in Kendal and south Cumbria will be able to enjoy the exhibitions and activities at the gallery as well as attracting more visitors to the town.

“I look forward to seeing this important Lakeland organisation complete its transformation and to celebrating its 60th birthday in 2022.”

Lakeland Arts has historically leased Abbot Hall from South Lakeland District Council and the authority has invested £100,000 in the redevelopment.

Councillor Robin Ashcroft, South Lakeland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economy, Culture and Leisure, said: “The announcement of this Arts Council England investment is fantastic news.

“The redevelopment has the potential to bring transformative improvements which create a world-class cultural facility in the heart of South Lakeland and sustain the District’s reputation as the leading rural cultural destination in the UK.

“Abbot Hall has built a reputation nationally for curating major new exhibitions and showing art and artists of the highest quality and range, and bringing great art to South Lakeland – and this work would make a massively significant contribution to culture and economy locally, improving the lives of South Lakeland residents and being a major draw for visitors.

“Lakeland Arts deserve congratulations for their vision in what they are striving to achieve at Abbot Hall and South Lakeland District Council was proud to demonstrate our support for that vision at the end of last year with a £100,000 investment and we are sure that will be money very well spent.”

Rhian Harris added: “Lakeland Arts will consult with our local community, planning officers, special interest groups and our immediate neighbours so that we listen to different opinions as we finalise proposals for this sensitive and significant site.

“We are also pursuing other funding streams and if anyone is interested in supporting this exciting development they should get in touch.

“We have already raised over £1m of match funding thanks to generous support from the DCMS Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, Lakeland Arts Support Trust, South Lakeland District Council and private donations.

“We need to raise an additional £3.6m by summer 2020 and have an ambitious fundraising plan in place to do this.”

Work is planned to get underway in summer 2020 and would create a world-class cultural destination for visitors in the heart of Kendal.  It is hoped the redevelopment would be complete in 2022 – in time for Abbot Hall’s 60th birthday.

The redevelopment involves Abbot Hall Art Gallery, existing storage buildings facing Abbot Hall Park and the grounds in between those areas. It will see a new dedicated learning centre for schools and local communities, a new retail offer, more exhibition space and a community gallery.

The redevelopment aims to improve accessibility to the site and this important riverside area. The top car park nearest Highgate – Peppercorn Lane – is not part of the scheme and would be unaffected.

The funding boost comes as Abbot Hall prepares to stage one of its biggest ever exhibitions this summer. Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud opens on 12 July. It will include more than 100 works and stretch across five galleries.

Abbot Hall Art Gallery is a Grade I listed eighteenth century riverside mansion and the site includes the Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry.

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