Squeezed between successive waves of lockdowns and restrictions, galleries in the north of England are being forced to rethink their business models. For institutions such as Manchester Art Gallery, or Bluecoat in Liverpool, the Culture Recovery Fund has provided a temporary lifeline, but questions remain as to what will happen after March.
Even prior to this second national lockdown, visitor figures had been restricted to accommodate social distancing: Baltic in Gateshead, which would welcome 3,000 on a good Sunday, hit capacity last weekend at 500. The entrepreneurial culture of the last two decades, under which arts organisations were encouraged to generate significant income from commercial activities, now appears unsustainable.
“What we’re seeing is a complete collapse of our income model,” explains Sarah Munro, director of Baltic. Support from Arts Council England, Gateshead Council and Northumbria University accounts for about 60 per cent of the gallery’s budget. Until this year, car