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The project was halted in March last year when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, preventing the start of construction.

The Council’s Cabinet Resources Panel has since given approval for the development works to take place and Croft Building and Conservation Ltd have been named as the company to begin the programme in June.

The historic gallery, including the current upstairs café, will remain open during the phase two works, which will see the relocation of the café from the top floor to a larger ground floor location alongside a new kitchen area, and improvements to the St Peter’s Gardens entrance, helping accessibility.

The works will support the Council’s Relighting Our City strategy by protecting a major capital investment project that will enable one of the city’s cultural gems to deliver further jobs and investment in Wolverhampton.

One of the first events the new-look Lichfield Street venue will welcome is the prestigious British Art Show 9 in January 2022 – kicking-off a bumper year of major events in the city, including the Commonwealth Games cycling time trial, Creation Day Festival in West Park, Wolverhampton Literature Festival and big-name gigs at the newly refurbished Civic Halls.

City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said:

“The second phase of these major improvement works will enhance the visitor experience and allow the gallery to be used to its full potential in the future.

“With city events in the pipeline to draw people into Wolverhampton, culture forms a key part of our Covid recovery strategy and the works Croft Building and Conservation will carry out will ensure the gallery continues to be a much-loved asset for everyone.

“The art gallery is a key component in the leisure offer for the city along with the Civic Halls and the Grand Theatre and the improvements are a further demonstration of confidence in the city where there is more than £4.4billion of investment on site or planned.”

Tom Jenkins, Chair of the Friends of Wolverhampton Arts and Museums, added:

“The Friends are delighted that the new café project is starting in June. This will be a great asset for the Gallery. Prior to the pandemic the Friends had started to meet for regular coffee mornings at the Gallery café and this was a really welcome opportunity for members to socialise and enjoy the exhibitions and displays. We very much look forward to continuing these regular catch-ups in the new, larger space.”

The final £1,526,000 budget for the phase two works will be funded by a mixture of Arts Council England grants and existing capital funding, this investment in the gallery will generate additional income for the Council.

Phase one of the gallery improvements programme saw the Sensing Sculpture room on the first floor transformed into an exhibition space that has enabled the gallery to host larger touring exhibitions such as the Natural History Museum’s World Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

The spectacular Georgian Room was also fully refurbished, and the PA system and Wi-Fi connectivity improved.