The Public art gallery closure a 'sad day'

The Public gallery only opened five years ago

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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.

The Public

  • In 2006, administrators were called in as the project faced rising debts even before it was due to open
  • The gallery was bailed out by a £1.6m government grant
  • It opened to visitors in June 2008, two years behind schedule
  • Its key feature, an interactive gallery, finally opened in August 2009
  • The final cost of the project was £72m, more than £15m over budget
  • It was initially criticised for plans to charge a £6.95 entry fee, which was scrapped before the main gallery opened

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.

Fun Palace at The Public Architect Cedric Price designed the Fun Palace in the 1960s. The Public's architect, Wil Alsop, incorporated it into the venue
Public Scrapbook at Public Gallery Staff and customers created their own scrapbook of the gallery, featuring flyers, photos and memories
Head of Learning Andy Fowles at The Public Head of Learning, Andy Fowles, 36, with one of the artworks he created for the gallery, said: "This has been a fantastic, popular venue."
Artist Graeme Rose, 47, the Public 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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