The future of one of the UKs leading regional galleries has been cast into doubt following a proposed 50% cut in funding by Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC).
s biggest stakeholder, EBC currently invests £614,000 every year in the exhibition and learning programme, and maintaining the gallery building with its permanent collection of over 5,000 historical, modern and contemporary artworks. EBC is proposing an initial reduction of £200,000 in April 2018 followed by incremental cuts in subsequent years. This follows the Councils recent commitment to Towners new status as an independent charitable trust in 2014, and as EBC invests £44 million in Devonshire Quarter, a cultural, sporting and conference facility next to the gallery.
David Dimbleby, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Towner said Eastbourne Borough Council is proposing cuts that jeopardise the future of a critically acclaimed and popular arts organisation, which attracts nearly 150,000 visitors a year. Towner has played a central role in the cultural and social life of the town, the surrounding area and further afield, for nearly 100 years. We could lose six out of ten exhibitions a year, as well as our award-winning learning programme, putting at risk everything that Towner stands for.
As the largest gallery in South East England outside London, and Eastbournes flagship cultural landmark, Towner is renowned for its world class exhibition programme including recent highlights Ravilious & Co (2017); Towards Night (2016); Recording Britain (2016); David Bomberg: A Sense of Place (2016); and The Lyons Teashops Lithographs: Art in a time of austerity (2013). Its permanent collection includes the largest and most significant collection of works by Eric Ravilious (1903 1942) as well as work by artists including David Bomberg, Christopher Wood, Walter Sickert, John Piper, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Edward Bawden, and contemporary works from British and international artists including Grayson Perry, Julian Opie, Tacita Dean, Omer Fast, Mariele Neudecker, John Virtue, Olafur Eliasson and Wolfgang Tillmans.
Towners increasing reputation for contemporary art has resulted in solo exhibitions by leading artists including Melanie Manchot, Becky Beasley and Jessica Warboys, and the presentation of Isaac Juliens highly acclaimed video installation, Ten Thousand Waves (2010), a new addition to the gallerys collection alongside Siobhan Hapaskas Intifada in 2016s Some Are Nights Others Stars. In 2015, Towner and the Whitworth were the first partners in the Art Funds Moving Image Fund for Museums, launched to ensure the acquisition of major artists film and video works for public collections; and in 2016 Towner was one of four galleries chosen for the National Partners Programme, to curate a 3-year series of exhibitions celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Arts Council Collection. In 2017 Towner opened a £550,000 state-of-the-art cinema auditorium showcasing a complementary programme of feature and documentary films, artists moving image works, live performance and talks, which have attracted substantial new local and regional audiences.
Last year, Towners Learning and Outreach Programme worked with over 10,000 people, including 70 schools and 8,000 children from Eastbourne and across East Sussex, providing young people and adults with free organised creative activities in the gallery. The loss of the programme would have a profound impact, particularly due to the fact that arts subjects are no longer requisite in the national curriculum. Towner Learning also provides support and creative development for vulnerable groups, including adults and children with mental health conditions and people living with dementia and memory loss.