A HEARTFELT appeal has been launched to save Wigan’s award-winning art education centre from oblivion.
Wigan Council is considering withdrawing its subsidy from The Drumcroon Gallery as it is forced to axe millions from its budget.
Leader Lord Smith said that if the Parson’s Walk centre was to survive, it would have to rely on being 100 per cent funded by the schools that visit it because their funds are not being as severely affected by the austerity measures as the local authority’s.
But as the gallery begins its 30th anniversary celebrations, one of the key players in its success now fears that it may not be around to mark its 31st.
Keith Trencher, fund-raising officer for the Friends of Drumcroon, does not think schools will be able to afford to stump up the full costs and that the withdrawal of the council’s annual contribution of around £200,000 could be fatal and appealed for a re-think.
Mr Trencher, who is a unversity art tutor, said: “Ever since the early 1990s there has always been an element of funding by schools for Drumcroon and the value placed upon it by headteachers is self-evident by the numbers of schools visiting and by the school contribution towards its running costs.
“However, it is essential that some form of core funding remains by the council as I fear that to lose all of this will make it quite simply too expensive for the majority of schools to sustain faced by so many other pressures on their diminishing budgets.
“Drumcroon is Wigan’s only art gallery open to members of the general public and every exhibition is visited by countless numbers of local people wanting to engage more with works of art and to be welcomed by informed, informative and knowledgeable staff.
“We simply cannot afford to let this wonderful place disappear.”
Mr Trencher said that when the Drumcroon was set up in 1981 it was the biggest jewel in a “crown of jewels” of a progressive, forward-looking Education Department, which transformed education in Wigan schools.
He added: “It is true to say that over the past 30 years Wigan has led not only the country but also the world in ‘education through art’ and is still continuing to do so today.
“Wigan and especially Drumcroon pioneered the use of practising artists in schools working alongside children and students, the Picture Loan scheme, which enabled children to engage with, understand, and contextualize their own art enabling a deeper understanding of their own work and its relationship to the work of other artists and crafts persons.
“In addition, the visits to the gallery enabled generations of Wigan children to have a first-hand experience, to engage with major exhibitions and to see artists-in-residence.
“Only a few months ago I was in a local primary school when one of the children came up to me, took me across to see their own work inspired by Picasso’s Guernica.
“The level of knowledge, understanding and creative output of these children was quite simply staggering to behold.”