The Lightbox art gallery and museum opens to the public in Woking
PUBLISHED: 13:19 28 June 2012 | UPDATED: 11:13 18 April 2016
After more than a decade of planning, Woking's brand-new art gallery and museum, The Lightbox, recently opened its doors to the public. Tinx Newton paid them a visit to find out exactly what they have in store for us
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2007
Chobham Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 4AA: 01483 737800
It's an exciting time right now in Woking as thousands descend on the town to visit its brand-new gallery and museum. Located in a state-of-the-art building on the Basingstoke Canal, and costing a cool £7 million, The Lightbox promises to be a long-awaited facility for the whole community to enjoy.
"The unusual thing about The Lightbox is that it offers a mix of art and heritage," says director Marilyn Scott, a former V&A curator. "We have involved the local community along our journey of planning, and we learned that this was what they wanted - a contemporary art space and museum combined."
Going green in Woking
Environmental issues, sustainability and aesthetics all had to be carefully considered when choosing the best design for The Lightbox, and the finished building, created by Marks Barfield Architects, is a testament to the successful working partnership between the architects, local council, service engineers Max Fordham LLP and the gallery and museum team.
"As a museum designed to record all that is unusual and relevant to Woking, we felt it was a real priority to ensure that the entire building would reflect the town's fantastic work in tackling climate change," continues Marilyn. "Our advisers have helped us to achieve this without incurring disproportionate costs or compromising on quality and design."
As well as their changing exhibitions, the gallery will also be holding regular workshops and events, and a dedicated education studio will have a permanent 'art cart' to encourage children to explore creative activities.
For those interested in delving into the past, the first floor History Gallery presents a theme-based interpretation of Woking's past, including key heritage sites, the changing face of the town and stories of its diverse communities.
And after all that cultural activity, visitors can then enjoy a snack in the 40-seater café or sit outside in the landscaped gardens alongside the canal. A shop selling a range of regionally produced gifts, cards and books will also provide revenue for the gallery.
"There is something here for all the family - history, art, architecture, creativity, fun and unusual gifts, as well as a great cup of coffee and beautifully landscaped gardens where you can sit and relax," says Marilyn.
"The packed exhibition and events programme will cater for all ages with activities for all tastes, whether you want to just sit and listen or get creative. So be sure to pick up some information when you visit and book fast, or visit the website for a preview.
"People can be assured that there will be plenty to tempt them back time and time again."
For their opening show, the gallery has managed to secure a world exclusive. Entitled Animated Adventures, this landmark exhibition will showcase the work of Aardman Studios, who were responsible for the hugely popular Wallace & Gromit films and recent TV spin-off, Shaun the Sheep. There's an interesting local link too, as the co-creators of Aardman Animations Ltd, David Sproxton and Peter Lord, are former Woking Grammar School boys who developed their love of drawing cartoons in the school magazine.
"Material from the new Shaun the Sheep animations, previously unseen by the public, will be on show for the very first time," says exhibitions manager, Hamish MacGillivray. "The Lightbox has also secured 'Hut 17', the memorable roosting place from Aardman's fabulous film, Chicken Run, one of the few pieces that survived the terrible fire at the company's warehouse just over a year ago."
The exhibition will run until the New Year in the main space, while elsewhere in the gallery, stunning bronze sculptures crafted by Elisabeth Frink will be on display. Lent to the gallery by a local private collector, these are part of a modern British collection of some 150 works including pieces by Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, Barbara Hepworth and Jacob Epstein.
"The Lightbox is extremely privileged to be loaned this very special collection, which has never been seen before," continues Marilyn. "It is a fascinating range of works by British artists and is so extensive that we will be able to show a changing programme. The first temporary display will be selected by a guest curator, but some of the large sculptures will be on permanent display throughout the building."
Working with local business
Of course, none of this would have been possible had it not been for the help of the corporate sponsors who signed up to support the gallery. Indeed, commercial director Anthony Pooley says they are indebted to the many local businesses who have come on board.
"The Lightbox aims to develop further partnership opportunities ensuring that the new gallery and museum is not only of cultural but also commercial value to the community," he adds. "The rest of the funding is expected to come from visitors to the gallery, the café and shop, the former with the attractive canal-side garden, and our corporate facilities, which will all contribute to the ongoing support of the building."
All in all, it looks as though this innovative gallery and museum will be a real asset to the area - and there's no doubt they will be inundated by visitors from across the county keen to see the place for themselves.
"This is such an exciting time for the people of Woking," adds Marilyn. "At long last, after 14 years, the vision of a group of people has transformed into reality."
- The Lightbox, Chobham Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 4AA. Normal opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and Sundays 11am to 5pm (open on Bank Holiday Mondays only). Entry is free, except for the main touring exhibitions where a charge will be made. For more information, contact the gallery on 01483 737800.