Belfast Telegraph

Ormeau Baths facing closure over rising costs and funding crisis

By Louise Small

One of Belfast’s best loved art galleries is facing closure because of a funding crisis, it can be revealed.

Rising costs and overheads are expected to result in the closure of the Ormeau Baths Gallery next week.

Insolvency practitioners have been called in to decide on the future of the gallery after it has suffered in the recent economic climate.

The art gallery has been struggling financially for some time, and rising costs could result in it closing its doors for good.

A meeting has been called for Monday with insolvency practitioners and solicitors, and an official decision and statement will be released as to its future.

Martin Bradley, chairman of the Ormeau Baths Gallery, said: “We are gutted that we have got to this stage; overheads are becoming too much and we have called in an insolvency practitioner.

“There have always been financial difficulties with the gallery. This is why we have sought advice. We are spending public money and do not want to rack up huge debts.

“A decision will be made on Monday and if the Arts Council decides we are to close, it will free up £300,000 per year, and this could be reinvested in visual arts throughout Northern Ireland.

“We need to do what is best for the gallery, staff and public funds. There are four people employed here and we need to ensure they are looked after.”

The gallery does not own the arts it exhibits and if it closes the pieces will be returned to their owners.

The contemporary gallery is situated in the Linen Quarter of Belfast.

Housed in Victorian premises, it opened in 1995 and has had local and international talent grace the walls over the years.

Matthew Hendry, spokesman for The Arts Council, said: “The gallery has been receiving £300,000.

“It is an independent company and it is up to them how to review the funding.

“If it is available, the board will have to review where it will be redeployed to. We could not comment at this time, as the money has not been freed up yet.

“The money will stay within the arts sector.”

The Ormeau Baths Gallery was previously closed in March 2006 because of a financial deficit, but was reopened shortly after protests.


Martin Bradley’s top three exhibitions

1. Local photographer Hannah Starkey held her first major show at the Ormeau Baths Gallery, she used actors to create scenarios in her photography work. The main aim of her work was to bring attention to the banal and dehumanising effects of constructed environments.

2. Siobhan Hapaska designed physical sculptures which were formed to invoke ideas for creative writing.

3. Philip Napier’s collection was called Expecting The Terror. This was a historical look at global trade routes and also the political nature of trade across the world down through the ages.

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