A Scottish gallery that has been 20 years in the making is finally set to open its doors this summer.
The countdown has begun for the opening of Kirkcudbright Galleries, for, on 9 June, the work begun by Kirkcudbright 2000, a group of dedicated campaigners will finally bear fruit.
Councillor Elaine Murray, leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, said today: ‘Kirkcudbright Galleries will be a regional gallery of national significance and has been a priority project for Dumfries and Galloway. We are excited to continue the good work started by Kirkcudbright 2000 and offer wonderful, permanent new gallery to the people of the region.’
Open all year round the Galleries will showcase the best of historic and contemporary art from galleries around the country and celebrate Kirkcudbright as The Artists’ Town.
Councillor Andy Ferguson, chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s communities committee, said: ‘The Kirkcudbright Artists’ Town brand has been successfully used to promote Kirkcudbright nationally and now this stunning new Gallery will enhance the town’s reputation even further.
‘It has been estimated that the Gallery will bring in around in 40,000 visitors per year to the town, which will in turn bring in up to £1 million pounds annually to the local economy.’
Kirkcudbright’s reputation as a haven and supporter of artists stems from the town’s unique role in the history of Scottish art, beginning in the development from the 1880s of an artists’ community.
Key artists such as EA Hornel, Jessie M King and Charles Oppenheimer took up residence in the town, and in turn they attracted many of the country’s leading artists to Kirkcudbright to visit and live. These artists produced an extensive body of work, some of which now resides in the Dumfries and Galloway Arts and Museum collection. This amazing body of work will now go on permanent display in Kirkcudbright Galleries.
The Galleries was not only funded by national bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, Creative Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, LEADER and Museums and Galleries Scotland, but also by local supporters: The Kirkcudbright Common Good Fund, Holywood Trust and Kirkcudbright 2000.
Andrew Leitch, capital projects officer, said: ‘Creative Scotland is pleased to support the development of the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery. The brand new facility will create an important showcase of contemporary art and craft in Dumfries and Galloway, adding considerably to the area’s cultural offer for locals and visitors alike.
‘The gallery will attract high profile national and international work to this artistically rich area of Scotland in a way which has not been possible until now. This new facility will also complement the Place Partnership in operation in the area helping to kickstart town centre regeneration and strengthen local communities through high quality creative engagement.’
Kirkcudbright Galleries began almost 20 years ago with a demand from the community of Kirkcudbright to create a large space for touring art exhibitions. Kirkcudbright 2000 was formed, and a series of large-scale exhibitions were organised in Kirkcudbright Town Hall. These proved extremely popular and paved the way for the Kirkcudbright Galleries to become a priority project with Dumfries and Galloway Council.
The rationale for creating a nationally significant art gallery in Kirkcudbright stems from the town’s unique role in the history of Scottish art and especially from the development from the 1880s of an artists’ community.
This attracted many of the country’s leading artists and produced an extensive body of work, some of it of exceptionally high quality.
This places Kirkcudbright in the context of a group of artists’ communities that emerged in Britain from the late 19th century onwards for example Newlyn, Staithes, St Ives, Walberswick, as well in Europe generally, for example at Pont-Aven in Brittany and Worpswede in Germany. This tradition continues today with many artists working in town at the recently opened WASPS Artists’ Studios.
Kirkcudbright’s art heritage therefore underpins this project and gives it credibility and sustainability. In return this project will protect the town’s art heritage for the future.