Outline of Proposal
This proposal is for the establishment of a public art gallery in Swanage concentrating on marine/seascape/landscape subjects with a bias towards work relating to the Jurassic coast. It is intended as a contribution towards economic regeneration and focussing the town on its future.
It is essential that the gallery should show work of sufficient merit to attract visitors nationally and internationally. This is not something which can be achieved solely with local resources. It is proposed that funding for a feasibility study be sought and the owners of suitable land/premises be contacted. At present the Pierhead site is the subject of a planning application and would be highly suitable for this use.
Swanage is not what it used to be. It has evolved from being a “family resort” in the 1960s and '70s in two directions. For what remains of the UK beach holiday market it is a cheap destination offering camping and caravan main holidays in the school holidays. In addition it attracts a growing year round flow of short break and weekend visitors who are not likely to come here for their main holiday. The tastes and purchasing habits of the two groups of visitor are different. What attracts one may deter the other. A particular problem for Swanage is attracting into the town people staying in holiday cottages in the surrounding countryside as they are often not receptive to many of the town's current offerings.
Other resorts and towns have followed a variety of regeneration/development models with varying success. There is now some belated interest in looking at what has succeeded elsewhere and learning from other's experience.
A Way ahead
Documents published by both town and district councils have indicated desirable characteristics of future tourist related development. It should:
1. Extend the season, ideally be a year-round attraction.
2. Not be weather dependent.
3. Attract visitors with a high daily spend
4. Raise the profile of Swanage
5. Not harm the environment
6. Be sustainable.
Although it may be tempting to imagine that the the prosperity of the 1960s can be restored in some way, for example by re-opening the rail link, and somehow persuading families to come here again for their main holidays we need to look at how we can build on growing rather than declining tourist patterns.
The Jurassic Coast
Swanage has been designated as a gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and any proposal needs to take this into account. The actual designated area is in fact a thin strip, most of which is inaccessible or almost invisible except from the sea. Most summer visitor's experience of the coast is limited to a small number of beaches and is otherwise vicarious, coming from art and media. The term “eco-tourism” has been applied to tourists drawn by what the jurassic coast offers. This proposal is aimed at developing and consolidating the attractiveness of Swanage to this type of tourist.
Culture, Regeneration and seed-corn investment
The role of cultural investment in economic development/regeneration has been well established for several decades and it has been very successful in locations where national and local government and other public agencies have been in a position to invest on a large enough scale. The regional Tate galleries are a good example. The Tate St.Ives has averaged 200,000 visitors a year since opening with enormous benefit to the town's economy.
This is a proposal for a specialised gallery. There is a long established and excellent tradition of landscape and maritime painting in English art, many consider this to be the nations greatest contribution to painting. The proposal is to investigate the possibility of having a gallery devoted to these genres here. A number of approaches to finding works for the gallery suggest themselves, ranging from persuading a major national gallery to house paintings from its collection here to asking for loans from private collectors to having a series of shows of paintings from a variety of sources. Major collections tend to have minor works of well known painters which are not displayed but which become a lot more interesting if they can be shown near the location in which they were created.
A second rationale is that landscape and seascape paintings shown in urban galleries are completely de-contextualised. Because the coast and landscape of Purbeck have in large measure been kept unchanged it is possible for the viewer to visit the area portrayed within minutes or hours of seeing the painting and to a degree re-experiece whatever the artist found there.
Benefits and Costs
There are a number of benefits which would accrue from the successful implementation of this proposal.
Swanage would gain an asset used by several thousand people a week.
It would be moved upmarket
The Next Step
The next step is to establish support for the concept of a Swanage Gallery from a wide range of organisations, agencies and individuals locally and further afield and seek funding for a formal feasibility study.
Posted by Keith Roker to swanage view