EXCITING redevelopment plans for Abbot Hall Art Gallery, in Kendal, have received a major boost after £4.6m Arts Council England funding was approved.

Lakeland Arts is delighted after its stage two capital grant application was given the green light.

The total cost of the project is £9.6m. Multi-award-winning MUMA (McInnes Usher McKnight Architects), is the lead architect for the scheme.

Lakeland Arts’ Chief Executive Rhian Harris said: “This fabulous funding news means our dream to redevelop Abbot Hall moves a step closer. “The planned redevelopment will mean visitors can experience world class art in redesigned exhibition galleries. It would also see improved accessibility and landscaping making Abbot Hall a welcoming and vibrant place that everyone can enjoy.

“We want the new Abbot Hall to be a cultural and community hub for engaging local people and bring culture to new audiences. The redevelopment will enable us to bring great art to Cumbria and also better display our own nationally significant collection of art.

For more than half-a-century Abbot Hall has built up an outstanding permanent collection of over 6,500 works including work by George Romney and nineteenth century watercolours by artists such as JMW Turner and John Ruskin.

The modern and contemporary collection includes work by Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, David Hockney, Paula Rego and Kurt Schwitters.

Arts Council England capital funding is awarded to organisations to improve buildings and facilities to be able to produce and present great work while bringing benefits to artists, audiences and to the communities where they’re located.

Arts Council England’s Director North, Alison Clark said: “Lakeland Arts is one of the leading cultural organisations in the north and we’re thrilled to be supporting the redevelopment of Abbot Hall with National Lottery investment from our capital funding programme.

Councillor Robin Ashcroft, South Lakeland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economy, Culture and Leisure, said: “Abbot Hall has built a reputation nationally for curating major new exhibitions and showing art and artists of the highest quality and range, and bringing great art to South Lakeland - and this work would make a massively significant contribution to culture and economy locally, improving the lives of South Lakeland residents and being a major draw for visitors.

Work is planned to get underway in summer 2020 and would create a world-class cultural destination for visitors in the heart of Kendal.

It is hoped the redevelopment would be complete in 2022 - in time for Abbot Hall’s 60th birthday.

However, £3.6m still needs to be raised by 2020.

The redevelopment involves Abbot Hall Art Gallery, existing storage buildings facing Abbot Hall Park and the grounds in between those areas. It will see a new dedicated learning centre for schools and local communities, a new retail offer, more exhibition space and a community gallery.