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Blenheim's 'very exciting' library and art gallery to open in time for winter

Article courtesy of Stuff.

Written by Andy Brew, Nov 29 2022

Marlborough libraries manager Glenn Webster and Millennium Public Art Gallery’s lead volunteer Kate Parker try out a new cubbyhole in the children’s section where youngsters can curl up with a book. Image: Anthony Phelps/Stuff

Blenheim’s new $20 million library and art gallery is set to open next May, just in time to offer Marlburians another great incentive to get out of the house during the cold, dark winter months.

As the finishing touches are applied to the building’s outer structure, eager library staff are getting ready to move in and complete the fit-out early next year.

While staff were busy arranging the logistics of transferring thousands of items to the new library, Marlborough libraries manager Glenn Webster said the plans to move in were near completion.

“Staff are finalising shelving layouts and furniture arrangements for the building and are looking forward to welcoming the community to their new joint facility in 2023,” he said.

With the carpets laid and the decorations in the children’s section already going up, the Millennium Public Art Gallery’s lead volunteer Kate Parker said the excitement around the move to the new complex was almost unbearable.

“It’s very, very exciting, stomach-turning exciting, really. I’ve always felt that Marlborough was ready for something like this,” she said.

Parker said her late husband, the renowned Blenheim artist J.S Parker, played a pivotal role in the gallery’s original conception as he wanted to give Marlborough youth the opportunity to see great artwork without having to travel to cities.

“My husband was a painter, so the work towards the art gallery was very close to his heart and he gave all the support he could.

Tradesmen apply the finishing touches to the children’s section. Image: Anthony Phelps/Stuff

“He was very supportive in the original group of people who got the original idea off the ground and going. The philosophy was that Marlborough needed this, and because John had taught art, he got very frustrated because city kids were very advantaged because they had access to galleries

“So, the gallery will show the work of New Zealand, and possibly overseas artists as well, serious painters and sculptors whose work you’d have to leave the province to see,” she said.

Gallery director Cressida Bishop said the building’s climate-controlled gallery and storage spaces met the highest standards required for New Zealand public art galleries.

This will enable Marlborough to host exhibitions of rare and valuable works such as the Rita Angus survey exhibition, that the gallery hadn’t previously been able to show.

With the children’s area facing the fire station, kids will get a front row seat when trucks go out. Image: Anthony Phelps/Stuff

With the new building having a 3,600m2 footprint, the fit-out was set to begin in the new year and was expected to take four months.

The complex would also house shared areas including meeting rooms, a foyer/reception, cafe, toilets, a multi-purpose education room and landscaped grounds.

Council economic, community and support services manager Dean Heiford said the new library and gallery complex would be a cornerstone feature of Blenheim’s CBD and a hub for the whole Marlborough community once it opened next year.

“The building also contains meeting spaces for community groups, which are in high demand, and large spaces for school groups to visit both the library and the gallery,” Heiford said.

Webster said the building, built using the most modern seismic-resistant technologies, was also likely to be the sturdiest in town.

“This is going to be the safest building to be in if we have an earthquake,” he said.


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