Visitors to one of the North East’s newest cultural attractions are getting a smart welcome with the help of a five-figure grant from a regional employer.
Located in Bishop Auckland Market Place, the Mining Art Gallery is the first venue of its type in the UK to be dedicated to exploring how miners responded to their experiences through art.
A £20,000 grant given by County Durham-based employer The Banks Group via its Banks Community Fund helped fund the creation of the gallery’s reception space and shop, which was carried out as part of the refurbishment of the Grade II listed building in which it is located, as well as the installation of three large display cases.
One of the cases currently contains some of renowned ‘pitmen painter’ Norman Cornish’s sketchbooks, as well as the pen he used to draw in them.
Personal items belonging to other miners also feature, including hard hats, a water canteen and a food tin.
The Mining Art Gallery, which opened in October last year and which has already attracted more than 10,000 visitors, provides a permanent home for more than 400 paintings and drawings by famous local artists, as well as artworks on loan from national institutions.
A temporary exhibition commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Bevin Boys scheme and the men conscripted through it into the mines during World War II is currently on show at the gallery. It features works created by Tom McGuinness, Ted Holloway, David McClure and John Tipton in response to their time as Bevin Boys.
The gallery is part of The Auckland Project, an arts, faith and heritage destination that aims to revitalise the future of Bishop Auckland through employment, training and educational opportunities.
Liz Fisher, Engagement Director at The Auckland Project, says: “The Mining Art Gallery is a unique venue that showcases the incredible artistic skill of those that worked in the mining industry. The artworks depict the miners’ lives, from the dangerous and claustrophobic environment they encountered underground, to the camaraderie and spirit of the communities they returned to at the end of a hard shift.
“The visitor experience at any attraction like ours starts as soon as someone comes through the door, and having the right kind of attractive welcome space is crucial to getting things off to the best possible start.
“The support we’ve had from regional businesses like The Banks Group and other funders makes a real difference to everything we do, and we’re very grateful to all of them for their generous contributions.”
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, adds: “The Mining Art Gallery provides a fantastic window into the lives of those who worked in the mining industry, the impact it had on their view of the world and the influence it has had on the artistic and cultural heritage of our region.
“As a local family-owned property, renewables and energy business with our own mining heritage, which continues to this day, we were pleased to support this project which will benefit both the local community and the local economy by adding to the impressive list of visitor attractions being developed in our County, and it’s great to see the numbers of visitors that it’s already attracting.”
Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for grant funding from the Banks Community Fund should contact James Eaglesham on 0191 378 6342 or visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/corporate-responsibility/banks-community-fund
More information about The Auckland Project and Mining Art Gallery can be found online at www.aucklandproject.org or by searching The Auckland Project on Facebook and Twitter.