Future of Swindon art gives cause for concern

Swindon Borough Council has been trying to calm fears it might want to close the town’s Museum and Art Gallery.

A council statement issued a few days ago confirmed that the museum and art gallery was safe and that no decision had been taken to close it.

The museum and art gallery currently has its home at Apsley House, an 1840s listed house which was converted for the purpose in the 1930s.

Swindon Borough Council says it has been recognised for decades as not being fit for purpose.

Earlier this year, the council announced a bold vision to deliver a Cultural Quarter by 2030 between the railway station and Zurich’s new offices.

The vision was developed by the council in partnership with key Swindon cultural organisations and their users and includes plans for a new art pavilion, theatre, dance studio and media and arts production centre.

In its statement the council pointed out that Apsley House had deteriorated significantly in recent years and major building work needed to be carried out.

But Cllr Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Culture, Heritage and Leisure, said, “I am determined to see our nationally important art collection shared with the widest possible audience and for a new art gallery and museum to be delivered that Swindon can be proud of.

“A persuasive case was made by the professional officers running Swindon Museum and Art Gallery that Apsley House is not fit for purpose, so focusing efforts on a new purpose-built facility is in the best interests of the art collection and museum artefacts.

“I have asked officers to prepare a full cabinet report on the future of Apsley House and the potential to relocate the museum and art gallery to a new home.

“I can be clear. The future of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in our town is safe and there is a long-term costed plan.

“Art is currently, and will remain, on display around the town.”

However, a petition has been launched to “save” the museum and art gallery.

The petition calls for the collections to be retained on show in Apsley House until they can be moved to a new home where they are on show to the public.

Petitioners believe that the “dispersal and mothballing” of the collections would be highly damaging to Swindon’s bid for city status.

They add, “We call for a further report to be produced setting out all the options for the future of the collections and of Apsley House, for all funding opportunities to be investigated and for a debate to be held in full council before any decisions are made.”