New art exhibition in former M&S store in Wigan town centre
Castlefield Gallery, which is currently occupying the old shop on Standishgate, has put up its latest show Extension for people to see.
Four artists from Greater Manchester, including Wigan creative talent Jane Fairhurst, have their work on display in the windows along Standishgate and where the store connects to the Grand Arcade.
Bosses at the Manchester-based arts organisation spoke in glowing terms about their link with Wigan, with the former M&S one of a number of empty buildings across the city-region it has used to put art in unusual and unexpected locations.
They also said Wiganers can expect to see more work going on at the former retail site in the next few months as they intend to use the building as a hub for artists, the easing of Covid-19 restrictions allowing.
Matthew Pendergast, deputy director and curator at Castlefield Gallery, said: “Wigan is a really happening place. We’ve got a long-standing relationship with the area and had a space in Leigh for a few years.
“We’ve also built relationships with organisations like The Turnpike and Cross Street Arts in Standish. There’s a lot going on with The Fire Within and The Old Courts.
“We don’t want to undermine existing organisations, we want to do something that is complementary to what they’re doing.
“The windows of the former M&S are an ideal opportunity to share artwork with the public in a Covid-safe way. It’s a good way for people to see what we do while they still can’t access gallery spaces.”
Extension, the latest scheme to adorn the former shop windows, comes out of Obstruction, a project at the Castlefield Gallery which brought together artists over 50 on a mentoring scheme with younger, recently-graduated talent.
The artists set each other challenges, or obstructions, which had to be overcome to create the final pieces that met the criteria set.
Now four of the artists, including Jane who is from Billinge, have continued working together to create further pieces as an extension of the first project.
Castlefield Gallery hopes to temporarily transform the former M&S, a large store sat at a key Wigan town centre location, into a studio space for artists from the region which will give them more room to work on ambitious ideas.
The plan is also for the section of the store accessed from the Grand Arcade to be open to the public, with ideas including a small exhibition space.
However, the rules to slow the spread of Covid-19, including prioritising working from home, social distancing and restrictions on people being indoors in public spaces, mean the whole scheme has moved much more slowly than originally hoped.
The roadmap currently means May 19 is the earliest point that opening galleries can even be considered.
However, Matthew said he was hopeful that Wigan residents walking past the site would in the coming months see something very different to the empty unit which has been there since M&S moved out.
He said; “We’re just being patient. Covid has delayed things but they will still go ahead once it’s safe. We’ve got a list of artists and creative groups ready to move in and we’re in the process of doing that.
“We’re really keen to get this space used. Artists are queuing up. As soon as it’s logistically possible we will have that space filled with artists doing all kind of things.
“The idea is for artists to have a bigger space than their usual studios so they can go wild and make really big works.”
Castlefield Gallery’s use of the unit has also been strongly backed by the local authority.
Coun Chris Ready, cabinet member for communities and culture at Wigan Council, said: “We are working with Castlefield Gallery to bring arts and culture directly to our residents. The first installation, Data Rooms, incited conversation, which is one of our aims with The Fire Within.
“We’re pleased that Castlefield Gallery has chosen Wigan to showcase an extension of their main installation, Obstructions.
“And, with a Wigan based artist being one of the four chosen to display their work here, this is a great example of how we are working together to provide a platform for local and regional artists to express their creativity.”
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