The second round of the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund, created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund to enable museums across the country to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections, reopens today for applications.
In this guest blog Penny Bull from the Art Fund explains what the programme is and what it can fund, and Janice Hayes from Warrington Museum & Art Gallery writes about the programme from the perspective of a museum which successfully applied for funding in the first round.
“Here at Art Fund we’re excited to be opening the second round of grant applications to the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. The programme, made possible by the Garfield Weston Foundation, aims to provide museum visitors across the country with increased access to national museum and gallery objects. It does this by offering funding to regional museums to secure important, strategic loans from the national collections, and then maximise loan opportunities in the context of their own collections and communities. The Garfield Weston Foundation offers its very generous support in celebration of its 60th anniversary, taking place this year.
In the first round we were really excited to see the variety of ways that museums across the country planned to integrate loan objects and items from their own collection, and were so pleased to be able to support thirteen projects. You can currently visit funded exhibitions at Brampton Museum, Cannon Hall Museum and Paxton House. And there is, of course, Warrington Art Treasures at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, but I’ll leave it to Janice Hayes to tell you more on that. For a full list of previous awards please visit: https://www.artfund.org/news/2017/12/13/weston-loan-programme-2018-recipients.
We’re thrilled to be in a position to consider funding applications this summer and again in 2019, we’re able to provide 100% of the funding needed for a project. We welcome requests of £5,000 to £25,000, and this can cover the costs associated with securing and displaying the loan, and for maximising its impact. This could include transportation, conservation, installation, marketing materials, onsite interpretation or audience engagement activity, but also much more. Eligible museums need to have a permanent collection and be Accredited, provisionally Accredited, or able to demonstrate a longstanding commitment to care for the collections. The applicants also need to be regional and/or run by local authorities, universities or have independent Trust status.
We opened for applications today, and the deadline for submissions will be 11thSeptember. For further details please visit www.artfund.org/supporting-museums/weston-loan-programme, and do contact me if you’d like to discuss a possible application, email@example.com.”
Penny Bull, Senior Programmes Manager, Art Fund
Warrington Museum Learns How to Borrow
“Warrington Museum & Art Gallery had lots to celebrate in 2017 with the 160th anniversary of the current building and the 140th anniversary of the main art gallery in October 1877 – the same month Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery opened.
Since transferring to a new charitable trust called Culture Warrington in 2012 the museum had been busy adapting to life outside direct local authority support and had largely withdrawn from major touring exhibitions. By 2017 our ambitious plans for major museum capital developments meant it was time to raise our profile once again on the regional, and hopefully national, stage.
From its creation in 1848 Warrington Museum had amassed significant collections including works by prominent local Victorian artists and so the grand plan to showcase Warrington’s Art Treasureswas conceived – a series of exhibitions marking landmarks in the creation of the oldest public museum in the North West of England. Coincidentally the museum had also formerly been the home to Warrington School of Art which trained many artists who had gone on to acquire a national reputation as regular exhibitors at the Royal Academy, meaning we could link in with the RA 250 celebrations.
Our ambitions grew: could we persuade National Museums Liverpool (NML) to be a partner in our project by loaning three significant works from the Walker Art Gallery linked to two of the best known Warrington artists, John Warrington Wood and Luke Fildes?
Just loaning three paintings: how hard could it be….? Answer: a lot more complicated than we imagined, and impossible without our key partners of NML, Museum Development North West (MDNW) and the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund.
Now the paintings are safely installed in Warrington we have time to reflect on what we learnt in the process which might help other would-be borrowers, like your organisation perhaps?
Lesson One: It takes much longer than you think to negotiate a loan
Always remember this might be your priority project but your major partner will have their own priorities already in place. It can take over a year to negotiate even a relatively straightforward loan, especially if the work is on their gallery walls. If the work you want to borrow needs conservation before it can safely travel that adds to the timescales, adds to your costs and causes more admin for the loaner and the borrower. And another small tip: check and double check the measurements of the loans before you commit to any expenditure. Obvious I know, but it’s always worth checking if the dimensions you’ve been given include the frame so you can be sure it’ll fit through your doors and into your goods lift when it’s packed in the travelling crate!
Lesson Two: Does your venue meet the loan venue’s standards?
Have you got staff with the experience/capacity to negotiate the loan, deal with insurance issues and provide the data to deal with questions around whether your venue meets the necessary environmental and security standards?
Without the pragmatic support of NML we would have fallen at this first hurdle because we are based in a Grade II listed building so even before the Beast From the East hit the UK our gallery environment was somewhat erratic, but nothing new humidifiers couldn’t cure we were advised. Thanks to MDNW’s ACE-funded Ready to Borrow grants we were able to make the environmental and security improvements needed. NML agreed to the loan of our three works and our gallery environment stabilised.
Lesson Three: Never underestimate the cost of getting a loan to your venue (and returning it!)
So we could get the works we wanted to borrow but we hadn’t got the budget to pay for conservation costs to one frame, the hire of crates or transport and specialised art handlers to install the works to NML’s satisfaction. Then there were the associated publicity costs and an activity programme to engage and grow our audience. What started as a “simple” loan of three works had now escalated to unbudgeted costs of over £20,000. With the support of MDNW we applied to the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund, created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund to enable museums across the country to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections and were delighted to be successful.
Lesson Four: Getting the grant funding for your loan is only the tip of the iceberg! This is when you discover that as well as dealing with all the loan administration your small team has also got to cope with all the publicity and evaluation your grant funders will expect to see in place. Whilst national institutions have separate press & marketing teams who are well versed in scheduling, for smaller organisations the lengthy deadlines involved can cause capacity issues. Remember to allow time for press releases to get clearance from all the organisations involved in your project and make sure someone in your team can respond to urgent emails about redrafts!
Remember that long list of benefits to your organisation you put on your application form? Just beware that now you will be expected to come up with evaluation tools to demonstrate that you have achieved them! So be realistic about what you promise and pragmatic about your capacity to get meaningful data for key points.
Lesson Five: It’s not over when your loans are finally on the gallery wall!
If you are a small team the pressure is on to catch up with the enquiry backlog that built up whilst you were working on the exhibition installation or meet the deadlines for your next project… but you still need the capacity to keep feeding new angles to the press; run the activity programme and evaluate the feedback from your visitors and participants.
So: Have we learnt how to borrow and would we do it again?
We’ll have a definitive answer to that in March 2019 when our exhibition is over, the loans have been returned and our evaluation complete! But so far we feel much better equipped to explore new loan opportunities with major partners and much more confident that our staff and venue meet expected standards. We’ve had positive press coverage and favourable feedback from visitors but our activity programme is only just beginning so overall evaluation is premature. We’ve had good support from all of our partners so if you are thinking of such a project we’d say …go for it!”
Janice Hayes, Culture Warrington Heritage Manager