Councillors will discuss ideas for a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to create a combined arts and culture facility of national and international stature next week.
Via a specific alliance between Coventry City Council, Arts Council England’s Arts Council Library, Culture Coventry Trust and Coventry University, in conjunction with the Coventry City of Culture Trust, a national Collections Centre may be built.
Discussions between the groups have been underway for several months.
The exciting development could see the Council attempt to purchase and transform the former IKEA building in the city centre to create a multi-purpose collection and cultural facility, adding to Coventry’s coming year as UK City of Culture’s enduring physical, economic and cultural legacy.
If accepted, the multi-million-pound scheme will be home to some of the country’s finest works of art and give Coventry’s own cultural and heritage collections greater public access. It is hoped that this will entail collaborations with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum by curated exhibits to display these significant national works.
Once the old IKEA building has been redeveloped, the flagship scheme will see Arts Council England move the Arts Council Collection from two existing collection stores to Coventry. The location would become a bustling modern art centre that would provide the rest of the world with loans for exhibits.
Culture Coventry Trust, which manages the iconic Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and the Coventry Transport Museum, will also take space to move some of the collections of the city not seen in the museums, improving public access to more of the collections of Coventry.
Transferring objects from part of the surviving Whitefriars Monastery of the 14th century would also allow additional opportunity to carry the Grade
Next week, councillors at the Cabinet and Full Council of Coventry City Council will vote on the proposals to purchase and transform the former IKEA building. Costs will tend to be recovered over the length of their leases by capital grants and the rentals earned by the investors engaged in the project.
Councilor David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Housing and Neighbourhoods of the Coventry City Council representing culture and the arts, said: “This exciting and amazing proposal is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something that Coventry people can be rightly proud of as well as a national and international centre of excellence that will be a lasting legacy of our year as the City of Culture of the United Kingdom.”
Councilor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Work and Regeneration of the Coventry City Council, added: “I know that a lot of people were disappointed when IKEA decided to close the Coventry store back in March 2020.” As a council, we said we wanted to look at ways to reuse this historic building as something special and I hope this is what this plan would accomplish.
“It will bring Coventry jobs and skills and will be something we can all be proud of as a town, as it will attract regional, national and international interest.”
Across its two existing collection shops, the Arts Council Collection has hit capacity. The planned new Collections Centre includes a new modern, purpose-fit building for the Arts Council Collection that consolidates the two stores and the activities of the collection. This will improve collection care quality and allow the Arts Council Collection to create and introduce innovative ways of exploring the collection’s public involvement.
Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said, “Arts Council England welcomes this declaration to progress to the next step in the construction of a new landmark collection centre in Coventry.
The new facilities will ensure that we not only firmly locate our current collection in the centre of this country, but also encourage collaborators to continue to help live artists, provide greater opportunities for students to study our specific collection, and, most importantly, ensure that these works reach more individuals in more locations across the country.
The collaboration within the new Centre will also be an apt way to mark the heritage of Coventry’s City of Culture. To continue to do this, we look forward to partnering with Coventry City Council and other stakeholders.
Deborah Smith, Arts Council Collection Curator, added: “This year, the Arts Council Collection is celebrating its 75th anniversary and our strategy is to explore new opportunities for public programming to present and promote the work in our collection.”
Coventry Trust Culture says they are optimistic about the possibilities that a joint Collections Centre will generate.
Chief Executive Paul Breed said: “The new collection centre proposed would create a more tailor-made and appropriate collection environment, with increased public access to parts of the collections of the city that are not currently on display.”
“We are delighted that the new Collection Centre will enable our collection to continue to grow and enhance the learning of British Modern and Contemporary Art through a programme of public engagement that moves through the store and an integrated and collaborative creative studio, expanding opportunities to work with partners in the Collection Centre and beyond.”
“Furthermore, the partnership with the national collection partner provides an opportunity to significantly improve and re-imagine the positioning of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum by creating an enhanced programme of exhibitions that will allow it to reach a wider and more diverse audience.”
To date, Coventry University has been a key participant in the creation of the project and is keen to further pursue the benefits that the centre could provide to students and the city.
Professor John Latham CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University, said: “For Coventry, this is a huge moment, but hopefully it is just a starting point.”
“We will continue to work with all the partners involved to ensure that this opportunity is maximised and that the centre is developed into something that provides the city with tangible educational, cultural and economic benefits.”
All stakeholders have shared their contribution to the development of a permanent legacy from the City of Culture 2021 and will collaborate to build this special, iconic facility in the heart of Coventry city centre with the Coventry City of Culture Trust and broader city and regional partners.
“David Burbidge, Chairman of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “Since our path to becoming the City of Culture of the United Kingdom started in 2015, we have understood that a sustainable legacy in Coventry is vital for long-term progress.
“Bringing national collections to Coventry with international significance will help cement the city as an extremely important part of the cultural profile of the United Kingdom.”