The project was halted in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, preventing construction getting underway.
Croft Building and Conservation Ltd was last month appointed as the contractor and has now begun the task of creating a large ground floor dining area alongside a new kitchen, and developing the St Peter’s Gardens entrance, helping accessibility.
The historic gallery will remain open during the phase two works and the upstairs café will continue trading until the new downstairs facility is ready to open.
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 Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said:
“These major improvement works will provide a massive boost for our wonderful art gallery and I’m delighted to see works get underway.
“The second phase of the project will enhance the visitor experience and allow the gallery to be used to its full potential in the future.
“We have a five-year plan to bring the very best art, music and sport to Wolverhampton to boost the city’s economy, create new jobs, give visitors an experience to remember and build an outstanding cultural reputation.
“With city events in the pipeline to draw people into Wolverhampton, culture forms a key part of our Covid recovery strategy and the improvements will ensure our much-loved gallery remains a major attraction and further grows its outstanding reputation.
“The art gallery is a key component in the leisure offer for the city along with the Civic Halls, Grand Theatre, Bilston Town Hall and Aldersley Leisure Village, 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.”
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 Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
The spectacular Georgian Room was also fully refurbished, and the PA system and Wi-Fi connectivity improved.