VISITORS, celebrities, artists and schools united in opposition today to the proposed closure of Sheffield’s Graves Art Gallery.
The Star revealed yesterday the city centre gallery could be shut as part of Sheffield Council’s plans to make £84 million in savings over the next three years.
Museums Sheffield, which runs the gallery on Surrey Street, is facing a £328,000 cut in its £2.3m annual council funding - something chair Sandra Newton said would be “almost impossible” to absorb without reducing services.
But Brit-award nominated singer-songwriter Richard Hawley today led the calls to save the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield.
The 44-year-old musician was joined by artists Pete McKee and Joe Scarborough in expressing anger and dismay at the proposition the gallery could close.
“It’s always the case in hard times - culture is the first area to be deemed unnecessary but the opposite is the actual case,” Hawley told The Star.
“It’s at times like these we need culture the most. Like the idiocy of closing libraries, closing the Graves Art Gallery will lead to people being starved intellectually.
“Impoverishment of the soul isn’t an option for modern Britain and shouldn’t be an option for Sheffield Council.”
Sheffield artist Pete McKee said he would be “mortified” if the gallery closed - and credited the Graves with directly shaping his life.
“If the Graves Art Gallery hadn’t existed I would never have been influenced to be an artist - the place had that big of an impact on me as a boy,” he said.
“My dad used to take me there from when I was about seven, and I specifically remember exhibitions there by two of my biggest inspirations. One was Lowry, and the other was the British pop artist Patrick Caulfield, whose work directly influenced my style as it is today. I was 15 at the time and seeing his work was a cornerstone for me in becoming the artist I am.
“I would go to the Graves often and it is still my favourite gallery in Sheffield. It would be a terrible shame if it was to close.”
Sheffield-born artist Joe Scarborough said: “We lose the Graves Art Gallery at our peril.
“Like all attacks on the arts, it sounds initially not to be important - but I wonder if the people who come up with these ideas fully realise the value of the arts. The Graves is one of the greatest treasures unheralded in this city.
“I have visited it often and I have even borrowed works from there. It’s not just the works on show that are important but the treasures held on behalf of Sheffield.”
He warned: “Museums Sheffield and the council are just the custodians of the gallery - it is the people of Sheffield who are its owners.”
Howard Greaves, vice chairman of the Hallamshire Historical Buildings Society, said it “would be tragic” to close the gallery.
“I don’t know the size of the council’s budget but I would think having an art gallery is but a drop in the ocean,” he said, adding a city centre art gallery was a vital attraction for tourists.
“For a lot of people who visit cities, visiting the gallery is the first thing they do,” he said. “It wouldn’t be good for Sheffield’s image. We will be a laughing stock.”
Headteacher John Bainbridge, of Limpsfield Juniors in Brightside, said school visits to the gallery were integral to learning.
“In the current atmosphere of cuts, arts helps to develop the children’s creativity and imaginations,” he said.
Karen Sherwood, founder and director of Hillsborough’s Cupola Gallery, said the news was “very upsetting”.
“Sheffield has the largest growing population of creatives in the country - to close the Graves doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It would be the absolute opposite of joined-up thinking, in short it would be bloody foolish.
“I think the council will be extremely shocked at the strength of feeling against this idea. It is a disgraceful suggestion - I am appalled anyone would consider such a thing.”