The Art House Starts an Exciting New Chapter

The Art House celebrates an exciting new chapter as it breathes life into Drury Lane library following a major £3m development funded by European Regional Development Fund, Wakefield Council and Arts Council England.

The newly extended site in the heart of Wakefield will provide additional facilities for artists, designers and makers and will be formally reopened on Thursday 3 December by Cllr Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council. Work started on the former library in 2014 and the completed scheme includes additional fully accessible, flexible and affordable workspaces for visual artists living and working in the region alongside a project space and meeting room facilities. 

Drury Lane library was designed by Trimmell, Cox & Co of Woldingham, Surrey and built by Bagnall Brothers of Wakefield following a request by a local Wakefield alderman to American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie whose gift of £8,000 saw the free public library open. Carnegie went on to fund four further public libraries in the Wakefield district. Andrew Carnegie opened Drury Lane library in June 1906 and said during his visit

“My thanks will be everlasting if you prove that you receive this benefit in the spirit it is intended.”

Jane Glaister OBE, chair of The Art House said

“We are delighted to see the this ambitious development completed and the historic Drury Lane library restored and occupied by a wide range of tenants. Our ambition is to become a nationally recognised organisation that places diverse art and artists at the heart of cultural debate. Our new space creates a platform to engage with artists and audiences and I look forward to seeing it become a leading creative resource that supports a creative community to develop professionally and artistically.” 

To celebrate the reopening of The Art House and the rich industrial heritage of the city, a new collaboration pairs a unique hand-printed wallpaper by designers Laura Slater and Fraser Muggeridge with a selection of objects on loan from Wakefield Museum in an exhibition called ‘Wakefield Industrial and Fine Art, 150 Years’. The installation references the Wakefield Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition of 1865, one of many exhibitions held nationally following the Great Exhibition of 1851 - the first international exhibition of manufactured goods held in the magnificent Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park. This exhibition will remain a backdrop for activities taking place in the Project Space throughout 2016.

Kerry Harker and Ruth Lilley, Interim Directors, said

“The reopening of The Art House underlines Wakefield’s unique thriving arts offer and its growing reputation as a creative city to live, work and visit. Through our artistic programme, mentoring and residencies we can build on our founding principles of access and inclusivity by challenging conventional approaches to diversity and the arts - an appropriate way to mark the International Day of People with Disabilities.”

Visitors to The Art House will be able to see the restored library building including the arts and craft tiles which have been lovingly restored alongside many other original features including parquet flooring, original librarians desk and the much loved weather vane on the exterior of the building. The Art House is open to the public from 10am to 4pm Tuesday – Thursday, and for special events including the Wakefield Art Walk, advertised online.

The Drury Lane redevelopment has been realised thanks to a £1.3m Arts Council England ‘Large Capital’ grant, £1.2m from the European Regional Development Fund, as well as support from Wakefield Council, which gave a 25-year lease for the building, which became empty in 2012 when the library’s contents were transferred to a new central library at the Wakefield One civic building. The Art House reopening follows the recent renovation of nearby Unity Hall in 2014 and the redevelopment of Wakefield Westgate train station in 2013.

To find out more about The Art House visit www.the-arthouse.org.uk