The Whitaker Museum a huge success for Rossendale
The impressive £2.2 million re-development of the much-loved museum and art gallery, which included a significant grant from The National Heritage Lottery Fund, was unveiled at the end of July and since then has attracted visitor numbers of around 250 a day.
Carl Bell, Managing Director of The Whitaker said: “We’ve been really pleased with the visitor numbers and the lovely comments and feedback we’ve been getting. We’ve even had some visitors from Berkeley California who said they’d be here more often if we were closer to San Francisco! I’m not sure they came just for our reopening but none the less it’s great to see that we can hold our own as a quality visitor attraction.
“We knew there was a real appetite for a good high quality cultural space with high calibre artists and exhibitions and that if we delivered then the people would come. And that’s proved to be the case.”
The new development has seen the museum double in size with the addition of a new café and community space, extended exhibition areas and the refurbishment of the original house.
Gaynor Seville, Creative Director, who is leading on the museum and galleries, will work with local and internally renowned artists and crafts people to present a varied and contemporary programme of exhibitions.
Gaynor said: “The first two exhibitions from artists Kara Lyons and David Hancock, have received excellent comments and we’re extremely pleased to announce another first with the unveiling of a new sculpture from renowned artist John Hyatt.”
John has had a long relationship with the Whitaker stretching back to 2002. He staged an exhibition, examining the historical background of the now infamous ‘Betty Treacle’ portrait in the collection in 2012. In the same year, he exhibited his ‘Rossendale Fairies’ photographs which went internationally viral and profiled Rossendale and the Whitaker on a global stage.
John’s new work ‘The Fledgling’ has been commissioned specifically for the Whitaker and will be a permanent public sculpture in bronze and stainless steel.
John Hyatt explained: “I wanted to show a relationship to the collections and the museum’s wooded situation in Whitaker Park. ‘The Fledgling’ is elegant and totemic. It has a sense of wonder to it. A beautiful perfection takes to the air above the tangled barbed wire of a difficult nest. It represents the trans-generational and the transformative; freedom rising from adversity; and a future of hope. Ultimately, it represents Rossendale and The Whitaker itself in its cyclic rebirths.”
The unveiling of the sculpture will take place on 19th August at 6pm and on the same evening there will be a talk from exhibition artist David Hancock. David, who has exhibited in the prestigious John Moores 21 Contemporary Painting Exhibition and the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, will be talking about his fascinating exhibition ‘A Still Life’ currently on display at the museum.
Both events are free, but you do need to book a place via The Whitaker website.
As well as exhibiting renowned local and international artists The Whitaker will also be launching an annual Lancashire New Graduate Award.
Gaynor added: “We’re committed to supporting new and emerging talent in Lancashire and celebrating the success of our artists who are either from or have studied here.
“Graduates and new artists often feel like they have to be in a city to get noticed or to have their first exhibition, but we want to show them the opportunities there are here too. We want to give them a taste of what is possible and as well as them being able to exhibit in this amazing space they will also receive one to one development support to advise on funding applications, how to approach galleries and curators, how to develop proposals and all the other stuff that goes with being an artist.”
Information about all events at The Whitaker can be viewed online at https://www.thewhitaker.org
The Whitaker was winner of the Lancashire Tourism Awards 2015 – Cultural Venue/Organisation Award