Birmingham & Black Country

The Public art gallery closure a 'sad day'

Staff, artists and visitors have bid farewell to The Public art gallery in West Bromwich, on what they called "a sad day for the West Midlands".

The New Street gallery, which opened in 2008, is closing after Sandwell Council announced it could no longer spend £30,000 a week subsidising the venue.

Tearful staff said they were "overwhelmed" by the support of visitors at the £72m venue.

Visitors said they were "sorry to see the venue close".

The Public closes for good on Saturday.

The site, dubbed a "giant shoebox" by critics, is set to become a sixth form college for up to 500 students next year. Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper said a 25-year lease deal with Sandwell College means the "building's future has been secured".

'Hard to believe'

A "Celebration Week" at the gallery began on Monday, showcasing local music, comedy and art.

A spokeswoman for The Public's management said: "We held celebrations because we wanted to go out on top.

"It is still hard to believe this is happening. There have been lots of tears from everyone.

"I feel angry that some people are losing their jobs, but am pleased that some groups have found alternate premises."

She added: "We have 120 apprentices here and it is them I feel sorry for because they have had all this opportunity taken away from them.

"Sixty full-time staff lost their jobs with the closure, and 38 companies that were based here are looking for alternate locations."

Valerie Bunce, 67, from Tipton, was a member of The Public's Friday Knitting Group.

Image caption Architect Cedric Price designed the Fun Palace in the 1960s. The Public's architect, Wil Alsop, incorporated it into the venue
Image caption Staff and customers created their own scrapbook of the gallery, featuring flyers, photos and memories
Image caption Head of Learning, Andy Fowles, 36, with one of the artworks he created for the gallery, said: "This has been a fantastic, popular venue."
Image caption Birmingham artist Graeme Rose, 47, who held exhibitions at The Public said: "The closure is a huge loss to the community."

She said: "The council should have given it at least another 12 months to see how things went.

"It has been an important part of the community and a social meeting place.

"It is a very sad day for the West Midlands."

Artists who exhibited work at the gallery said they felt proud to have displayed work there.

Graeme Rose, 47, from Birmingham, said: "I feel privileged to have been here and am proud of what we have done."

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