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Bristol Art Gallery awarded new funding to attract more visitors

5th November 2019

Categories: Latest News

A much-loved Bristol gallery has received a major grant towards a project that will open up its building to attract more visitors and engage more people with art and creativity.

Bristol Art Gallery Awarded New Funding to Attract More Visitors

The RWA (Royal West of England Academy) has been awarded a grant of £305,000 from Arts Council England’s Small Capital Grants programme towards a project that will address essential building needs for Bristol’s oldest art gallery. The building project will include the remodelling of the building’s exterior; reconfiguration of the café and retail spaces; the transformation of the forecourt into a social space; the introduction of advanced digital technology; upgraded utilities to improve energy efficiency and accessibility. The project will help to deliver a step-change in financial viability, environmental sustainability, digital infrastructure and accessibility.

All of the work is designed to attract more people into this spectacular Grade II* listed Victorian building, described by Sir Nicholas Serota (Chair, Arts Council) as one of the most beautiful galleries in the country.  As a self-supporting independent charity which currently receives just 1.5% of its funding in public subsidy (a grant from Bristol City Council), the RWA’s ability to attract more visitors and deliver sustainable income is essential for it to continue as an art gallery.

The Arts Council’s capital funding will go towards enabling the RWA to continue using its outstanding galleries to present great work from the past and present, including new commissions from emerging artists and exhibitions featuring iconic historic masterpieces brought to the region for the first time from national and international collections. 

The work is part of a wider £3.5m transformational capital project, Light and Inspiration, addressing essential maintenance work to the building and roof whilst also replacing the vast roof lanterns (skylights), cooling the galleries. Alongside this work, a programme of activities will work with some of Bristol’s most vulnerable communities, inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds.  

The gallery received Development funding* of £178,600 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) earlier in the year to help it progress plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant of £1.37m in June 2020 towards the project. 

Match-funding of just under £1M needs to be pledged prior to the second round submission to The National Lottery Heritage Fund in June 2020 in order for the project to go ahead.

RWA Director, Alison Bevan, said  “We’re so grateful to have been awarded this grant from Arts Council England, which is an essential contribution to a project that will transform both our ability to welcome new visitors and our financial sustainability.  We’re immensely proud that we’re able to exhibit such a wealth of talent in our beautiful gallery spaces – over 800 artists over the past year – and this grant will go towards ensuring that we can continue inspiring and nurturing creativity for many years to come.”  

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “We are delighted to award £305,000 to the RWA through our Small Capital Grants funding programme. The development of the building exterior and entrance will help make the RWA more welcoming and accessible to all. We are extremely pleased that this funding will allow the RWA to greatly improve their long-term financial viability, digital infrastructure and resilience.” 


In addition to the grants from Arts Council England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, contributions have already been pledged towards the project by the John James Bristol Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Linbury Trust, Nisbet Trust and Bristol Port. 

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