'WE ARE trying to create a different kind of art gallery. I want the experience to be just as valid for the person on holiday as for the specialist. We hope that the gallery will bring visitors down here at different times of year, when the town becomes a different place. That's what the artists were, and still are, interested in. Apart from the 'warmth of the sun', they were also painting the eye of the storm, the roaring waves and the black clouds.
'We are planning a study programme which will look at particular moments in an artist's career in depth, opening with Hepworth's hospital drawings. At the same time, an artist in residence will be working at a hospital in Cornwall.
'The gallery is just the starting point. I hope that it will breathe new life into the artistic community. There's no point in having it if it doesn't. Of course, I have to accept that I'm running an art museum dedicated to modernist art of the past, but I would hope that any curator worth their salt would realise that the only way the gallery can stay fresh and alive is by working with living artists. I don't mean putting on exhibitions to sell their work. I want to involve living artists in the gallery and for it to act as a catalyst. We'll invite local artists to run part of the education programme themselves and to deliver their own perspectives on the works we are exhibiting.
'We hope that residences and commissions will stimulate parallels with other work and that dialogues between older and younger artists will help to strengthen that. We also intend to open up opportunities outside the gallery for responses by young artists. I think young artists are shy of knocking on the studio door of someone like Denis Mitchell or John Wells. One of the things we should be able to do is involve them all. Modernist art history suggests that an artist is 'of the Forties or Fifties', and that's that, but one of the things I hope we can do is to remind people that the older artists are still here.'
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