MORE than 100 people gathered to show their interest in the future of turning German artist Kurt Schwitters’ Lake District retreat into a tourist attraction.
Representatives from the art world joined academics, councillors and a high- profile German visitor to share their ideas at the Merz Barn in the Langdale Valley.
The plan is to give the remains of the remote barn a major overhaul and convert it into a rural art museum. The building - a farm shed - was Schwitters’ studio while he was living as a refugee in the area, and he turned it into an architectural ‘installation’ which came to be regarded as one of the great pioneering pieces of modern art.
Ian Hunter, co-director of the Littoral Arts Trust, which owns the barn on the Cylinders estate at Elterwater, said the event was part of a consultation they have entered into with £38,000 funding from the Arts Council to assess the feasibility of the proposed £1million project.
“I feel overwhelmed by the support shown today,” said Mr Hunter. “This is not national but international.
“The Merz Barn is not in a great state of repair and it needs to be cherished, so it needs the support of people in Cumbria,” said Mr Hunter.
The consultation will run until October when there will be another meeting to decide on a more solid plan for the future of the shell that stands as it was left in 1948.
Alison Clark-Jenkins, Arts Council Director in the North West, said: “There’s obviously something special about the site.
“There’s no consensus on what happens next but that’s a good thing as it needs to be more than a legacy, and also a living practice.”
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Also in attendance was the The Federal German Republic Consul for the North, Gräfin von Roedern, who said: “I love what they are trying to do here and I’m glad someone is keeping the memory of Schwitters alive.
"It’s a wonderful project that will further strengthen and expand good cultural relations between Germany and Cumbria and the North of England.”
And South Lakes MP Tim Farron has also pledged his support for the project.
“I cannot overstate how important a site Merz Barn is and what a boost it would be for the Cumbrian economy if some sort of museum or similar attraction be accommodated there,” he said.
Mr Hunter added that he and Littoral Arts Trust co-director Celia Larner had used their pensions and savings to ‘keep the place up’.
People can have their say and show their support by contacting the Merz Barn on 015394 37309.