THERE was a buzz in the Old Town over the weekend as crowds flocked to the newly opened Jerwood Gallery.
More than 2,000 visitors descended on the gallery at the weekend after it was formally opened to the public following a ceremony on Saturday (March 17) morning.
This was in addition to the 600 guests, many of them local, who had attended the launch events leading up to the opening.
Director Liz Gilmore said: “Over the weekend the gallery was filled with an air of excitement and discovery which seemed to radiate through the Stade.
“Comments such as ‘inspirational’, and ‘the best thing to happen to Hastings’ were mentioned time and time again.”
By Tuesday (March 20) the number of visitors through the doors had swelled to 3,000. On display is a retrospective of the work of Kent artist Rose Wylie, and part of the Jerwood Foundation’s collection of 20th and 21st century British art seen together for the first time.
The ambition is for the Jerwood to join the ‘string of pearls’ of prestigious cultural attractions along the South Coast, which includes the Turner Contemporary at Margate, the Folkestone Triennial, the Towner in Eastbourne, De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill and Pallant House in Chichester. Annual visitor numbers are expected to be in the range of 100,000 to 150,000.
Alan Grieve, chairman of the Jerwood Foundation said: “This is a major project for Jerwood, and a major project for Hastings. We wanted to find a location where there was the right feel, but at the same time, was not necessarily provided for. Hastings gave that opportunity to embrace regeneration.”
It remains controversial however, with a significant number of people questioning the gallery’s location, the future economic benefit for the town, and the entry charge (£7 or £2 for a local resident).
Leader of Hastings Borough Council Jeremy Birch said: “The Jerwood Gallery marks the culmination of £9 million investment on The Stade, transforming a faded coach and lorry park into a purpose built outdoor event area, quality community facilities, a fantastic new cafe and, now, this superb gallery which will be a great resource for local residents, and a wonderful new attraction for visitors.
“The whole town will benefit from this development, creating much-needed jobs, and yet another reason to visit us.”