Fears for Rugby’s artists as gallery hours are cut

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AN ARTIST has warned that Rugby’s cultural life is under threat due to changes in opening times at Rugby Art Gallery, Museum and Library.

The town’s Floor One gallery used to be open late on Tuesday and Thursdays - giving artists an opportunity to host preview and promotional nights for their work for free. But since April, revised opening hours mean that if artists want to use floor space outside of office hours, they have to hire it out at £40 per hour.

Artist Pete Thornley, who specialises in installations, said: “Evening preview events are vital to the art scene in Rugby – they provide an invaluable chance for artists to network so they can support each other and help promote their work to the wider public. Being able to do this outside of working hours is important for everyone involved.

“Many artists, especially younger ones, cannot afford fees. The result will be creativity being stifled and Rugby’s standing in the art community suffering.”

He added: “The council has failed to acknowledge the gallery’s growing reputation in the consciousness of regional and national art movers and shakers, which has been down to the hard work of the gallery staff. It’s particularly galling and a sad indictment of local and national government’s attitude to the arts at present.”

Cllr Heather Timms, portfolio holder for economy, development and culture, disagreed that the move was a threat to Rugby’s reputation among artists. She said: “Reports of the demise of culture in Rugby are premature.

“We are about to launch a significant new cultural event in Rugby, with our partners, which will cover music, theatre, dance, literature and the visual arts, and we are opening our museum for our largest ever Night at the Museum tonight (Thursday).

“And, while it is regrettable that we are no longer normally open in the evenings due to low visitor numbers, the numbers attending during the rest of the week have never been higher. The £40 charge for those who wish to hire facilities outside of normal opening hours covers our essential costs. And groups are welcome to host special events during our opening hours for no additional fee.”

She added: “We have a long waiting list of artists who would like to exhibit at the Floor One gallery, and its popularity is well-deserved.”