A campaign has been launched to ‘Save Lincoln’s Usher Gallery’ as Lincolnshire County Council looks to find new uses for the building.
As part of a consultation into heritage services in the city, the council proposes to change the use of the Usher Gallery, meaning part of the building would no longer be operated by Lincolnshire County Council as an art gallery – and instead used for the council’s registration, celebration and coroners services.
It is proposed that part of the building will still include art for the public to view six days a week, however the council has said that the building no longer meets the environmental and security standards to display valuable exhibits.
Instead, a major new exhibition space within The Collection Museum, costing between £2-4 million, is planned.
A brief history
Usher Gallery was named after successful Lincoln businessman James Ward Usher.
When Usher died in 1921, he left his art collection (predominantly watches and jewellery) to the Lincoln Corporation. He also bequeathed £60,000 towards the building of an art gallery and museum in which to house it.
The gallery opened to the public in 1927, displaying Usher’s collection alongside other works by local, national and international artists.
“When it’s gone, it’s gone forever”
A campaign has been launched to ensure the Usher Gallery remains a gallery, and at the time of writing has received 1,790 signatures.
One person campaigning for the Usher Gallery to continue as a fully functioning gallery is Graham Lewinton, a local artist who has a studio on Silver Street.
He told CityX: “Every county in the country has its principle City, ours is Lincoln, it holds the history, the archives and in short, its heritage – and that includes its art.
“It belongs to the people, the people should visit it, but realistically people go to galleries when they are on holiday, and know more of the culture of somewhere else than their own.
“The Usher Gallery holds a number of works by William Logsdail, probably the finest artist born in our city.
“If he were born earlier he would be bracketed with the finest pre-Raphaelites as he was technically one of Britain’s finest painters, when we had the Art School students went to the gallery as part of their education.
“When I moved to Lincoln in November 1983, one of my joys was visiting, learning and seeing what was there, exhibitions would change and it was inspiring, there were all the watches, jewellery, and ceramics, some given to the gallery, and surprises too – the Harrison clocks, a simple country carpenter who went on to invent the chronometer and saved thousands of lives, and a Lincolnshire man born and bred, in many ways, far ahead of his time, and of course the Tennyson room, arguably Lincoln’s leading man of letters.
“It is also the home of the Lincolnshire Artists’ Society, of which I’m proud to be a member.
“They have been exhibiting there for over a century, and some of their works would not look out of place in any of the finest galleries in the world.
“In short, the Usher Gallery belongs to the people, it is theirs, they should visit it, because when it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”
“No longer meeting standards”
Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Culture said: “The county council is currently consulting on a proposed blueprint for the future of its heritage service.
“The element that has attracted most interest is our plans for the Usher Gallery.
“Sadly, this iconic building no longer meets the rigorous environmental and security standards that are now considered essential for displaying the most valuable exhibits and much of Usher’s collection is in storage as a result.
“We still want art to remain within the Usher building, including a dedicated exhibition space on the ground floor, open to the public six days a week.
“Paintings and sculpture will also be on display in many of the other rooms, although, in future, many of these areas will be used for our registration, celebration and coroners services.
“However, much of the time, the public will still be able to visit and enjoy these works as they do now.
“These changes would be complemented by the creation of a major new exhibition space within The Collection Museum, for which we will be seeking £2-4 million of external funding.
“The Collection would then become home to some of the art currently in the Usher.
“In addition, as the security and environmental conditions in the museum are significantly better than those across the road, it would allow us to display some of the art we can no longer show in the Usher.
“And with this large, modern art space, we would also have a much better chance of attracting the major touring exhibitions that Lincolnshire presently misses out on.
“Currently, The Collection receives five times as many visitors as the Usher each year, and it’s our hope that this move will mean that more people have the chance to enjoy our fantastic art.
“It’s our belief that these proposals are very much in keeping with the spirit of Usher’s legacy.
“Of course, both the Usher Gallery and The Collection are owned by the City of Lincoln Council, so they would need to agree to these changes.”
Full details on the proposals and a link to an online survey can be found here.