Sheffield museums will lose visitors after cuts

The Millennium Gallery
The Millennium Gallery

VISITOR numbers to Sheffield’s three flagship museums will inevitably drop following huge funding cuts, the new boss admitted today.

Footfall at Millennium Gallery, Weston Park Museum and the Graves Gallery will all go down over the next three years, Kim Streets said.

It follows the Arts Council’s decision to refuse a £4.2 million grant and instead pour cash into facilities in Leeds and York.

Forty staff redundancies are currently being made while there will be a significant reduction in touring exhibitions such as the current Andy Warhol show at the Graves Gallery.

But Ms Streets, who was appointed chief executive of Museums Sheffield on April 16, launched the fightback, saying the service would make itself more efficient, pursue other funding streams and look to local artists, like Kid Acne, to exhibit more often.

And in an exclusive interview with The Star, she revealed long-term she was looking into a huge modernisation scheme for the Graves Gallery - including a top floor restaurant.

Ms Streets, aged 44, of Pitsmoor, said: “Of course you can’t take that kind of funding hit and it not have some impact but our challenge is to use this as an opportunity to make the ways we work more efficient and use what we have to its maximum potential.”

The cut in staff numbers will hit visitor numbers because it will mean fewer one-off events for families and schools.

Reduced touring exhibitions, meanwhile, will hit one of the service’s biggest selling points.

“We will do everything we can to bring exciting work here and give Sheffield the very best museums possible,” said Ms Street, who has worked at Museums Sheffield since 1991 and was director of learning before taking over her current post.

“But that will mean rediscovering our own collections and putting them at the heart of what we do.

“Next year, for example, is the centenary of the invention of stainless steel and that is something we will celebrate using our own collection, while 2014 will be the centenary of World War One. Again, that is a story we can tell.”

She added that new funding streams were already being investigated, including a bid for the Art Council’s Renaissance Strategic Support Fund.

In her first week she said she had also set the ball rolling for top-level discussions about overhauling the Graves Gallery.

n See the full interview in The Diary tomorrow.