‘I won’t go into York Art Gallery till its free’ – councillor joins residents’ ‘strike’

Plans to charge entry to York Art Gallery have dismayed many in the city. Photograph: YorkMix
28 Jul 2015 @ 10.05 pm
| News

A York councillor is refusing to step foot into the renovated York Art Gallery in protest at plans to charge residents an entry fee when it reopens.

Cllr Dave Taylor
Cllr Dave Taylor
All City of York Council members were offered a free preview of the newly renovated gallery on Tuesday (July 28). But the Green Party’s Dave Taylor has shunned the tour.

York Museums Trust has asked the council to remove the clause in its management contract that ensures York citizens have free access to the city’s art treasures.

This will be discussed by the learning and scrutiny committee on Wednesday (July 29) at 5.30pm. An hour later executive member Councillor Ayre will decide whether to allow the trust to impose a fee.

Cllr Taylor, who chairs the learning and scrutiny committee, says:

I’ve looked forward to the opening of the Centre of Ceramic Art for months, but I’m not willing to go on a free tour if the Council and York Museums Trust renege on an agreement to keep free access for residents to York Art Gallery.

Art should be for everyone, not just for the elite, and the city needs to take a step back from this decision and work out how to increase public access rather than reduce visitor numbers to a handful of wealthy tourists and the well-off in society.

People’s art gallery

York Art Gallery is due to re-open to the public on Saturday (August 1) but protesters are organise a pop-up York Free Art Gallery from 11am in Exhibition Square.

People will be able to express their own creativity through their own art works, to be added to the open exhibition.

Organisers say they want to “develop an active community around the art gallery linking the city’s collections with all the public of York as creators of York’s art, culture, history and heritage.”

As for the gallery Cllr Taylor will be staying away for the foreseeable future.

Lots of people have said that charges would put them off visiting and taking their friends and family who come to see them in York.

I shall join them in an ‘Art Strike’ until we can sort this out.

He said people are welcome to register to speak at the meetings at West Offices on Wednesday evening: “Please come and make your views known.”

Hundreds of petition signatures

An online petition calling for the art gallery to remain free had garnered nearly 650 signatures by Tuesday, July 28.

More than 200 people had added their comments to the site. Here are a few.

Art should be freely available to all in a public gallery. It has no relevance unless it can be experienced first hand by everybody.

Charging entrance will put a stop to visits by poorer individuals and families. That defeats the object of public galleries.

– Robert Camp, York

Dreadful decision to charge. Disgraceful to make it £7.50. I had put it in my diary to go for the re-opening. Not anymore.

– Ollie, Scarborough

Applying a charge for entry will make the gallery a venue only for tourists. It turns it from a local resource that can be used regularly to one that is only used on special occasions and turns (publicly funded) art into something exclusive rather than inclusive.

– Ian Weston, UK

It seems totally wrong that what was created as a public place (of innocent enjoyment and instruction) should cease to be within the reach of-the public.

– Rebecca Tallerman, Hull

I’m scared that these charges will be the death of the gallery. They should charge only for the specialists exhibitions as Tate Modern and Tate Britain do.

– Jo Walton, Middlesbrough