Centre brings art closer to people

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A NEW centre that aims to bring the world of art closer to people has opened inside a shopping centre.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond says the health and wellbeing benefits brought by the arts is more important than ever in the wake of Government cuts.

He spoke after opening the new Arts Hartlepool facility, which is based in the former Jonathan James shoe shop, on the upper floor of the town’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.

The unit will showcase work by emerging local artists and community groups, give people a chance to take part in a range of art workshops linked to upcoming events in the town and act as an information point for other services and activities in the area.

Mayor Drummond said the scheme was building on the success of an arts project that was held in the same store in the lead-up to the Tall Ships event.

He said it was about “taking arts and culture out to the public and making it very visible and encouraging people who haven’t normally engaged in art to take part”.

Mayor Drummond added: “I’m delighted that fundraisers have seen what a success the previous event was and saw it was money well-spent and are supporting this project as well.

“We are trying to show the wider benefits in wellbeing, health and social life.

“I guess in the current climate of cuts we need to show the benefits of where we spend every penny. “A lot of the benefits of the arts go unseen, but they can make a real difference to people.”

The centre was set up by Hartlepool Borough Council’s cultural services section.

It will be open from Tuesdays to Fridays from 10am-4pm from May to September.

The centre’s large multi-use main area will be busy with drop-in arts sessions.

Meanwhile, a special display area called Emerge will show work by emerging artists and a gallery area will profile work by existing local artists including Hartlepool Art Club and Havelock Art Group.

There will also be opportunities to handle and get inspiration from unusual objects from the Hartlepool Arts and Museums collection in a section of the centre called The Curiosity Show.

The unit is being made available free of charge by the shopping centre.

Centre manager Mark Rycraft said: “It’s marvellous to help bring together local people of all ages to explore the adventure of art.”

Clare Irvine, the council’s arts manager, urged local artists interested in leading workshops for the public or displaying work to get in touch.

The project is supported by the council, the shopping centre, the Arts Council, Cushman & Wakefield, Communities & Local Government, Putting People First, Premier Property Group and MLA Renaissance North-East.

For more information about Arts Hartlepool call 07500 975325.