Crafts Council's closure of gallery and shop sparks concern - Museums Association

Crafts Council’s closure of gallery and shop sparks concern

Artists and Industry Figures are concerned about the Crafts Council’s decision to close its exhibition and retail space at its …
Patrick Steel
Artists and Industry Figures are concerned about the Crafts Council's decision to close its exhibition and retail space at its London headquarters in Pentonville Road from June.

Kate Malone, whose work features in the council's collection, told Museums Journal: 'As a youngster, the Crafts Council gallery and shops were a great "carrot" for my endeavours. I really aspired towards showing there and it was an honour when I did.'

The decision follows a review that decided the council's resources should be redeployed across England, with an emphasis on education and partnership work. As part of this, the Crafts Council is taking on more responsibility for national craft education policy from the Arts Council England (ACE).

But a commentator said the change of direction had not come quickly enough, and blamed a lack of 'money, will or clarity from the arts council' since it took over the funding of the Crafts Council from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 1999.

An ACE spokeswoman denied this. She said: 'We have a close working relationship with the Crafts Council and fully support the trustees in setting this new direction.' Funding to the Crafts Council, she added, would remain unchanged.

The review has also led to a management reshuffle. Louise Taylor, the former director, and Nicholas Goodison, the former chairman, left at the end of last year. The head of finance left before the review was completed, while the head of communications and the acting director both took voluntary redundancy.

Rumours that Taylor left reluctantly were denied by Julian Stair, the interim chairman of the Crafts Council, who said: 'Louise was instrumental in starting the review and was fully behind it.'

Stair also said rumours that the Victoria and Albert Museum would take on the Crafts Council's collection were untrue. The council is planning to disperse parts of the collection around the country with a series of long-term loans. It is in talks with institutions across England.

The council's headquarters will remain in the capital, and there are plans to turn the exhibition area into a resource centre, move the library and photostore - previously housed upstairs - into it and display the remainder of the collection there on a rolling basis.

Stair said the 'broad aims' of the review had been agreed, but people should 'watch this space'. Alongside increasing partnership work, education work and regionalisation, the council is developing
a website that it hopes will be a 'major resource' both for educational and professional users.

Joanna Foster, who took over from Stair as the chairwoman of the council of this month, said her priority is to find a new director: 'We want someone who understands the arts and crafts context, has experience in where government is coming from and can help the organisation to grow, change and thrive.'

Patrick Steel

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