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Plans revealed for former IKEA in Coventry to become new national arts facility

16 February 2021
The Business Magazine article image for: Plans revealed for former IKEA in Coventry to become new national arts facility

Plans for a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to create a joint arts and culture facility of national and international standing are to be discussed by Coventry councillors next week.

A national Collections Centre could be created through a unique partnership between Coventry City Council, Arts Council England's Arts Council Collection, Culture Coventry Trust and Coventry University, in collaboration with the Coventry City of Culture Trust.

Discussions have been ongoing for some months between the parties.

The development could see the Council look to buy and convert the former IKEA building in the city centre to create a multi-purpose collections and cultural facility, contributing to a lasting physical, economic and cultural legacy from Coventry’s upcoming year as UK City of Culture.

If approved, the multi-million-pound project would become home to some of the country’s greatest works of art and provide greater public access to Coventry’s own cultural and heritage collections. It is hoped this could include partnerships with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum to show these important national works through curated exhibitions.

The landmark project would see Arts Council England relocate the Arts Council Collection from two current collection stores to Coventry, once the former IKEA building was redeveloped. The site would become a busy new hub for art which will service the rest of the country with exhibition loans.

Culture Coventry Trust, which runs the iconic Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and the Coventry Transport Museum, would also take space to relocate some of the city’s collections not on display in the museums, improving public access to more of Coventry’s collections.

Moving items from part of the remaining 14th Century Whitefriars Monastery – will also enable further opportunities to bring the Grade 1 listed building back into public use.

Councillors at Coventry City Council’s Cabinet and Full Council will vote on the plans next week, to buy and convert the former IKEA building. Costs would look to be recouped through capital grants and the rents received from the partners involved in the project over the length of their leases.

Councillor David Welsh, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities which covers culture and the arts, said: “This exciting and amazing proposal really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something Coventry people can be rightly proud of as well as a national and international centre of excellence that will be a lasting legacy from our year as UK City of Culture.

“A national Collections Centre would bring together the foremost national arts and cultural partners and their respective national collections alongside the city’s collections, to create a consolidated national base that would be at the heart of Coventry city centre.

“It would also free-up and create exciting opportunities for the much-loved Whitefriars Monastery that has been closed to the public for too long, while our local teams would benefit from working alongside a national collection management team.”

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, added: “I know a lot of people were disappointed when IKEA took the decision to close the Coventry store back in March 2020.

“As a Council we said we wanted to look at ways of bringing this landmark building back into use as something special and I believe this is what this proposal will achieve.

“It will bring jobs and skills to Coventry and will be something we can all be proud of as a city, as it will attract interest regionally, nationally and internationally.”

The Arts Council Collection has reached capacity across its two current collections stores. The proposed new Collections Centre offers Arts Council Collection a new modern, fit for purpose facility that consolidates the two stores and the collection’s operations. This will maximise efficiency in collection care and will allow Arts Council Collection to develop and implement new ways of exploring public engagement with the Collection.

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said: “Arts Council England welcomes this announcement to move to the next stage in developing a major landmark collection centre in Coventry.

“The new facility would ensure that we not only position our current Collection securely in the heart of this country but also enable work with partners to continue supporting living artists, create increased opportunities for students to research our unique collection and, most important, ensure these works reach more people in more places around the country.

“The partnership in the new Centre also would be a fitting way to mark Coventry’s City of Culture legacy. We look forward to working with Coventry City Council and other partners to try to achieve this.”

Deborah Smith, Director of Arts Council Collection, added: “Arts Council Collection is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and our strategy is to explore new public programming opportunities to present and support the work in our collection.

“We’re delighted that the new Collection Centre would allow for the continuing growth of our collection and for the increased learning of British Modern and Contemporary Art through a public engagement programme that moves through the store and an integrated and collaborative creative studio, extending opportunities to work with Collection Centre partners and further afield.”

Culture Coventry Trust say they are excited by the opportunities a shared Collections Centre will create.

Chief Executive Paul Breed said: “The proposed New Collection Centre would create a more bespoke and suitable collections environment, with enhanced public access to parts of the city’s collections that are not currently on display.

“The partnership with a national collection partner further provides an opportunity to significantly enhance and re-imagine the positioning of The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, through the creation of an enhanced exhibition programme that will enable it to reach wider and more diverse audiences.”

Coventry University has been a key partner in developing the project this far and is keen to explore further the opportunities the centre could bring to students and the community.

Professor John Latham CBE, Coventry University Vice-Chancellor, said: “This is a huge moment for Coventry but it is hopefully just a starting point.

“We will continue to work with all the partners involved to ensure we maximise this opportunity and develop the centre into something that brings tangible educational, cultural and economic benefits to the city.”

All parties have expressed their commitment to creating a lasting legacy from City of Culture 2021 and will be working with the Coventry City of Culture Trust and wider city and regional partners to develop this unique, landmark facility in the heart of Coventry city centre.

David Burbidge, Chair of the Coventry City of Culture Trust said: “Since our journey to becoming UK City of Culture began in 2015, we knew that a lasting legacy was important for long-term change in Coventry.

“Bringing national collections, with international significance, to Coventry will help to cement the city as a hugely important part of the UK’s cultural profile.”

Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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