New plans have been launched to reopen the former Smiths Row gallery in Bury St Edmunds – as an arts centre.
Arts Connections East, a new community interest company, founded by Bury St Edmunds artists and curators Stella Keen and Juliet Bowmaker, wants to to re-open the building as a ‘multi-purpose community arts space’.
The Market Cross, on Cornhill, has remained unused since being left vacant by the Smiths Row arts charity in 2015, which had run a gallery there for five years.
“We are currently working on an extensive business plan for the Market Cross building to be turned into a multi-purpose community arts space, which we will be presenting to the council next month,” said Stella.
“We are in early stage talks as there are a lot questions and ideas to address regarding the change of use, especially as it is Grade I-listed building.
“We will need to raise a lot of money for the project but already, I have been overwhelmed by the support for the project and feel confident we can present a very convincing case.”
Earlier this month, Bury St Edmunds Art Society held its 71st exhibition at the building, which is owned by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.
“The feedback for the week-long exhibition was amazing,” said Rosie Copeland, chair of Bury St Edmunds Art Society, .
“The Art Society helped found the original Market Cross Gallery in the 1970s, so it was also something of a homecoming. We are very excited about the new plans and are looking into at ways in which we can fully support them.
Cllr Joanna Rayner, borough council cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: ‘The Market Cross is a wonderful Grade I-listed building and we are keen to see it back in use as soon as possible.
The council has in recent weeks let the property under licence for a series of short one-off arts events.
“The council’s property agents have been in communication with a local arts organisation who have expressed an interest in the venue.”