Firstsite Colchester has won £100,000 and the title of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021.
The art gallery, which celebrates its 10th birthday this month, has transformed since losing its National Portfolio Organisation status in 2015. The prize's judges lauded the centre for its relationships with artists and efforts in the community.
During the pandemic, it loaned its building to neighbouring charity Community 360 to run a food bank and created activity packs that were downloaded by more than 92,000 households.
The centre has recently hosted exhibitions My name is not Refugee, curated by clients of Refugee Action Colchester, and Art For Life, comissioned by NHS key workers to aid understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on mental health.
"At their core is powerful, engaged contemporary art, housed in a gallery that gives space for everyone, from artists to NHS staff to local families and refugee groups. They exceeded all our expectations," Art Fund director Jenny Waldman said.
The four other shortlisted finalists - Centre for Contemporary Art Derry~Londonderry, Experience Barnsley, Thackray Museum of Medicine and Timespan - each received £15,000.