CULTURE chiefs say a Hartlepool art gallery is enjoying a record year - beating the number of visitors the year the Tall Ships came to town.
Hartlepool Art Gallery, at Christ Church, has seen more than 70,000 visitors through its doors over a 12-month period.
Figures show from January to December there was a total of 71,481 visitors to the gallery, up from 56,474 the year before, while the gallery is also heading towards a record year over the financial year.
Popular exhibitions over the past 12-months have included Neil Armstrong, In From The Outside, Hartlepool Art Club, Emerge, Dabble in Arts while there are also plans for a Cleveland College of Art and Design graduation ceremony - the first of its kind in Hartlepool - in July.
The visitor figures were discussed at a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s regeneration services committee.
David Worthington, the council’s head of culture and information, said: “We are heading towards record figures for the art gallery by the end of April. It would be more than the number that visited the year the Tall Ships visited Hartlepool in 2010.”
The news was welcomed by members of the committee.
Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher asked if there was a reason for the rise.
Mr Worthington said there was increased visits by school children, although that still only represented a small amount of the overall visitor figures - between 2,500 and 3,000.
He added that there is a more “adventurous and varied programme” of exhibitions meaning people kept coming back, while officers were also working to attract more visitors from outside of town.
Coun Akers-Belcher also asked what was being done in terms of displaying more of the council-owned art in public spaces, to which Mr Worthington said they were looking to re-hang the long gallery at the Civic Centre by the end of May, while there will also be a new portrait exhibition later this year.
The visitor numbers were included in a wider report about the range of cultural activities taking place in Hartlepool.
Labour councillor Robbie Payne, committee chairman, welcomed the “comprehensive report”, adding: “There is a lot happening in Hartlepool and long may it continue.”