The new chairman of Chichester’s Oxmarket Gallery has pledged to end the venue’s “hidden gem” status.
Yes, it’s a “gem”, but it has had enough of being “hidden”.
The Oxmarket has made significant progress in raising its profile in the past couple of years; Sophie Hull, who was unanimously elected chairman after serving as deputy chairman, has promised she will continue to work to get the gallery more widely known.
“I have been involved with the Oxmarket for a couple of years. A friend of mine introduced me to the gallery and I immediately realised that it was a gem in the heart of Chichester offering an amazing display space for art in the centre of the city in a grade II star building… and yet a lot of people don’t know about it. In the past couple of years, I have tried to raise its profile.
“It is just off East Street, down a little alleyway, but we have been attracting some world-class artists as well as local artists, and we have started to host more events, such as a couple of very successful book launches and concerts and poetry readings.
“The building has tremendous historic value, and it also has an excellent choice of exhibition areas, the John Rank Gallery which is large and the Wilson Studio which is small, and also the display cabinets. It is all very flexible.”
Sophie takes over from current chairman and also current city mayor Martyn Bell: “Martyn has done a wonderful job since stepping into the breach when the previous chairman (Richard Shord) died, but as mayor and with other roles, Martyn now felt that he was not able to devote as much time to the gallery as he would have liked.
“I believe that the Oxmarket has got enormous potential. It is a hidden gem which really does not want to be hidden. I want it to sit alongside Pallant House Gallery for anyone coming to Chichester and wanting somewhere to visit. I also think we have got very good facilities.”
And Sophie is keen to improve them further. Plans and costings are being drawn up to improve the entrance area.
“It is going to be a major project that will require a capital campaign. At the moment we just cover our costs. We would definitely like to strengthen our reserves. In the past we have received some donations and bequests, and all contributions have always been very gratefully received. Our challenge will be to revamp and refurbish the entrance area and also to increase footfall and also to increase the number of artists coming in. We want to be known as the go-to place for artists wanting somewhere to exhibit their works.”
Sophie also acknowledges the vital role played by the gallery’s volunteers: “They are invaluable to us, and we could not do it without their help. I am introducing more regular meetings with the volunteers to show our appreciation and to ask their views as to how we can continue to improve what we are offering.”
Sophie is delighted also to have brought on board two new directors at the gallery.
“Helen Monckton and Mike Crouch both bring tremendous experience and strengths of their own. Helen has extensive experience in administration, event management, project management and many other aspects following her work with Chichester City Council for the past 20 years.
“Mike is a retired accountant and mature student, studying art at Chichester University and is treasurer for the Oxmarket Gallery. Not only does he bring financial rigour and controls to our financial strength, but has a passion for the arts.
“Both Helen and Mike have very quickly added value to the board meetings and are great sounding boards and contributors for some of our plans with can-do attitude.”
Sophie is also looking to expand the current Friends scheme at the Oxmarket.