What's Happening in Wakefield blog

Hepworth welcomes half a million people

The Hepworth Wakefield is enjoying a triple celebration; its first birthday, its 500,000th visitor and an award nomination.

The £35m gallery has been named as one of four finalists for the £100,000 Art Fund Prize to become ‘museum of the year’.

Director Simon Wallis said: “The Hepworth has really put Wakefield on the map.

“We’ve had so many more visitors than I thought possible and now to be shortlisted for the incredibly prestigious art fund prize – it’s really been a terrific first year.

“The real highlight for us has been the people coming here and spending time with their families and coming back several times over.

“That’s what’s given us this great number of visitors.

“Visitor figures matter but what also matters is how much time people spend here. It’s so heartening that vast majority of visitors spend two hours here.

“They are obviously finding something of meaning and worth.”

If they win, Mr Wallis plans to spend the money on education programmes and outreach work and more family-friendly facilities, particularly at weekends

He added: “We’d like to employ more staff to ensure that the free access to great quality education work can be done on a regular basis. We also want to digitise the collection to make sure all the new digital technology is available to give people wider access.”

When he was asked about the future of the Hepworth gallery, Mr Wallis said: “Really it’s about building on the strengths and widening the audience we’ve created and working in greater and closer partnership with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This will be a really wonderful way to make sure that everyone knows Wakefield is one of the most important places to visit, particularly if you’re interested in sculpture.”

The gallery is one of the top three most visited art galleries outside of London and has been named as the UK’s most successful purpose-built gallery.

It has provided a huge estimated £10m boost to the local Wakefield economy. The 500,000 visitors have spent money in local shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs, other attractions and hotels.

Leader of Wakefield Council, Coun Peter Box said: “It’s great to see the gallery become such a success and along with Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Henry Moore Institute put Yorkshire on the map as a new world centre for sculpture.”

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