As Chairman of the Rye Art Gallery Trust, I write on behalf of all the Trustees, as a follow-up to the article last week entitled “Gallery trustees plan changes and the various comments from Kenneth Bird, Heidi Foster and Dr Anthony Kimber
First, it is pleasing to see the interest being shown in the future success and sustainability of the Trust and the Gallery itself. I would agree with much of what is said in the article. In particular I would like to emphasise that we have always recognised the need for supporters and have valued them. Nothing was sadder for me personally than to see that the Friends of Rye Art Gallery were unable to assemble a committee after more than 40 years since they were first instituted
I think readers might find it helpful if I expand a little on what we are planning.
However and firstly, I do need to put the record straight in one respect. Last week’s commentary contained a number of statements, including some about the recent past, many of which, in truth, we do not recognise. Nonetheless, rather than responding to the remarks, I will follow the spirit of Heidi’s comments where she states: “We should look forward to how best to support the gallery in whatever form this might take, as we all want the success that the Gallery Director, Jane Fenn, has achieved in her years in charge to continue.” We agree wholeheartedly with this and so I will say nothing further so that we can move on
Our thoughts regarding the future are set out in a letter dated February 8 that I sent to Paddy Harvey, the acting Chairman of the Friends which has been posted on the Rye Art Gallery website. This letter will also be available in the Gallery. Some of the paragraphs in my letter can be recognised from the main article in last week’s Rye News but there is a lot more in the letter that I hope readers will find of interest.
Specifically, we intend to consult and communicate with the Rye community about our plans on how best to deliver the Trust’s objectives given our current circumstances. We can and should deliver no more and no less. It is after all your Gallery. We expect to be in a position to have a document ready in the summer for public consultation with a view to taking decisions in the autumn.
Our immediate next step is a letter I shall be writing to the Friends in the next couple of weeks offering with my colleagues to attend their AGM. To the best of our ability, in advance of having worked up our consultation document, we would offer to answer questions which we hope will assist the Friends in their own deliberations in deciding how they wish to proceed. In due course we aim to issue a newsletter to the wider Rye community informing them of our plans.
Before concluding, I would like to reiterate some of the messages referred to in my letter. With the combined efforts of the Trustees, Friends, visitors and the artistic community, we are slowly moving towards our goal of securing its long-term financial survival. At the moment this can only be achieved by the Gallery operating a successful and profitable outlet for high-quality contemporary art where for more than 50 years we have always had the highest reputation. This has meant the Trustees have had to take some very difficult strategic decisions which are beginning to show positive results.
Throughout, we are always aware of the responsibilities placed upon us by the Trust Deed and the need to protect the Stormont legacy. In this respect, nothing has given me greater satisfaction than to establish the Stormont Awards for young artists up to the age of 16 which we will be rolling out to local schools with the support of the Rye Community Shop later this year. This will not only inspire the artists of tomorrow but also ensure the name of our founders continues to be closely associated with the promotion of the arts in Rye.
The past few years have been very demanding ones for the Trustees, all of whom are volunteers, who have had to spend considerable time working through all that has had to be done to preserve this great Gallery. I do urge you all to have a look at the appendix to my letter which details many of the exciting things we have been doing during the past year.
However, whilst we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, much still needs to be done with the support of all those who cherish this amazing and unique part of Rye’s heritage. I hope that as many as possible will be able to help us in this effort and also share in the activities we will be having at the Gallery.
Photos: Rye News Library