THE opening date of the much-anticipated Jerwood Gallery has been announced as March 17, next year, following a seven-month delay.
The £4 million gallery, located on The Stade, was originally expected to open this summer, but was hit by delays owing to construction problems.
Jerwood director Liz Gilmore said: “Of course it would have been nice to open sooner. While it would be possible to open a little earlier than March, we want to make sure we open with impact.”
She hopes that it will become a cultural hub for Hastings and is confident that a vibrant year-round programme of exhibitions and events will give both local people and visitors much to enjoy.
She said: “I am really looking forward to the morning that we open our doors for the first time, and see local people’s responses to the gallery.”
The opening exhibition is the UK’s first retrospective of the work of Kent-based artist Rose Wylie, who has painted in this area, and has strong links with Hastings.
The Jerwood Foundation’s collection of around 200 pieces of 20th and 21st century art, will also be on display for the first time.
There will also be opportunities for local schools, colleges, and community groups to use the gallery as a resource, and there are plans to involve a number of local artists in a show in 2013.
The Jerwood has been no stranger to controversy, with some feeling that the site would have been better kept as a coach park, and sceptical of the benefits to the town.
There have also been questions raised about whether local people should be made to pay to visit the new gallery.
Mrs Gilmore promises that they will adopt a ‘Robin Hood approach’ to pricing that will favour those living locally. “What we are offering is a fabulous building, which is already attracting attention. There is so much for people to do,” she added.
It is difficult to forecast visitor numbers with any certainty, but it is estimated the number of visitors could range from 100,000 to 150,000.
Leader of Hastings Borough Council Jeremy Birch said that the opening of the gallery was good news in terms of regeneration of The Stade, and for the local economy.
He said: “This really is excellent news for Hastings, and art lovers everywhere.
“It’s not just the local economy that will benefit, local people will too, with a superb collection of art literally on our doorstep. And we are especially pleased about Jerwood’s commitment to local outreach, particularly their plans to work with local schools.”
Full details of entry charges and opening times will be made available in February.