The long-awaited opening of The Public, one of Britain’s largest and most ambitious and expensive cultural building projects, is now set for the end of June 2008. Located in Sandwell in the West Midlands, The Public aims to bring a wide range of economic, cultural and community benefits to the area, and includes 3,500m2 of cultural centre space, as well as facilities for business events and business tenancies.
The Will Alsop-designed building will include The Public Gallery, an entirely participatory art gallery and the only space of its kind internationally. News of the venue’s opening has cheered its primary funder, Arts Council England (ACE), which has now paid almost £30m towards the estimated £55m costs. Initially budgeted at £40m, and due to open in 2004, the operating company running the project went into administration in 2006 (see AP117) and administrators have since been working with stakeholders to produce a viable operating plan for the business. To save the project, ACE invested £7m more than it had planned. Sally Luton, Executive Director of Arts Council England, West Midlands, said, “The Public Gallery will house world-class commissions by artists of international standing, which will not be seen anywhere else in this country and this will provide a wonderful opportunity to put a spotlight on West Bromwich. As the national development agency for the arts, the Arts Council’s role is to support groundbreaking projects which wouldn’t otherwise happen.”