New Chapter For Art House

The Art House celebrates an exciting new chapter as it breathes life into Drury Lane library following a major £3m development funded by European Regional Development Fund, Wakefield Council and Arts Council England. 

The newly extended site in the heart of Wakefield will provide additional facilities for artists, designers and makers and will be formally reopened on Thursday 3 December by Cllr Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council. Work started on the former library in 2014 and the completed scheme includes additional fully accessible, flexible and affordable workspaces for visual artists living and working in the region alongside a project space and meeting room facilities.

Drury Lane library was designed by Trimmell, Cox & Co of Woldingham, Surrey and built by Bagnall Brothers of Wakefield following a request by a local Wakefield alderman to American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie whose gift of £8,000 saw the free public library open. Carnegie went on to fund four further public libraries in the Wakefield district. Andrew Carnegie opened Drury Lane library in June 1906 and said during his visit “My thanks will be everlasting if you prove that you receive this benefit in the spirit it is intended.”

Jane Glaister OBE, chair of The Art House said “We are delighted to see this ambitious development completed and the historic Drury Lane library restored and occupied by a wide range of tenants. Our ambition is to become a nationally recognised organisation that places diverse art and artists at the heart of cultural debate. Our new space creates a platform to engage with artists and audiences and I look forward to seeing it become a leading creative resource that supports a creative community to develop professionally and artistically.”

Kerry Harker and Ruth Lilley, Interim Directors, said “The reopening of The Art House underlines Wakefield’s unique thriving arts offer and its growing reputation as a creative city to live, work and visit. Through our artistic programme, mentoring and residencies we can build on our founding principles of access and inclusivity by challenging conventional approaches to diversity and the arts – an appropriate way to mark the International Day of People with Disabilities.”

The Drury Lane redevelopment has been realised thanks to a £1.3m Arts Council England ‘Large Capital’ grant, £1.2m from the European Regional Development Fund, as well as support from Wakefield Council, which gave a 25-year lease for the building, which became empty in 2012 when the library’s contents were transferred to a new central library at the Wakefield One civic building. The Art House reopening follows the recent renovation of nearby Unity Hall in 2014 and the redevelopment of Wakefield Westgate train station in 2013.