We are at the end of a landmark week for the city and the Council as the eagerly anticipated reopening of Aberdeen Art Gallery draws near.
A media day on Monday served to give the first glimpse of what visitors will be treated to when the doors open on Saturday.
More than 5,500 free tickets for the opening weekend have been booked, with the two days full to capacity, and that demonstrates the excitement that is building. From an appearance on The One Show to visits from The Times, The Observer, The Guardian, Country Life, Conde Naste and everything in between there are new audiences learning about the way Aberdeen is evolving and the positive change being steered by the Council.
Before tomorrow’s public opening, I must take the opportunity to say congratulations and a very well deserved and sincere thank you to the many colleagues who have been working so hard to prepare – not only in recent weeks, but over a number of years as another complex project has moved from concept to design, construction and completion.
The video below, crafted by Norman Adams, tells some of that story in the words of the team and please do take the time out to enjoy their very personal take on an incredible achievement, it really is from the heart. My favourite section is on the new beginnings (from around 5:05 in the video), with the guiding principles of Team and Pride shining through.
With the redevelopment including the Gallery, Cowdray Hall and Remembrance Hall – three Category A listed buildings – there have been huge challenges. What has been delivered is a world class venue that will serve the city and the region as well as fulfilling the economic aims of attracting visitors from national and international markets.
I spoke recently about my admiration for the team effort behind the opening of The Event Complex Aberdeen.
Quietly in the background a very different but just as important development has been taking shape – with the the Aberdeen Art Gallery project brings the same great sense of pride as colleagues from across functions and cluster have come together through the different phases to achieve an amazing end result.
Of course the Aberdeen Art Galleries and Museums team in City Growth has been the driving force and special mention must go to Christine Rew, who has lived and breathed the redevelopment over a number of years. Supported by Helen Fothergill and the collections team, Deirdre Grant, Alex Robertson, Lorraine Neilsen, Jacqui Curtis and the hugely talented team of specialists, including our fantastic group of Museum Assistants, who serve as custodians of the city’s acclaimed collections.
From the decant from the Gallery in the first instance, opening of the Treasure Hub and meticulous fit-out programme it has been an undertaking of a scale and significance that can’t be overstated.
It would be easy to forget the way in which normal working lives were turned upside down for the Gallery team – so it’s important to acknowledge the way in which they have come through the disruption with great spirit and ambition.
Richard Sweetnam, as Chief Officer of City Growth, has played an important role in bringing the project to fruition – of course running in parallel with the push to complete TECA for its grand opening in the summer.
John Wilson and Stephen Booth and their teams in Capital and Corporate Landlord, including Neil Esslemont, Nigel McDowell and Martin Stewart, Simon McKenzie and John Stevenson have also been heavily involved and important parts of the Gallery redevelopment machine, with Fraser Bell’s legal colleagues and Jonathan Belford’s finance experts also crucial to the success.
The External Communications cluster has provided valuable support to the Gallery’s Marketing Manager Margaret Sweetnam, who is doing a sterling job in telling the story of the redevelopment to audiences far and wide, and as a lead in City Growth Dawn Schultz has been instrumental in supporting the Gallery team in planning the opening week’s busy programme of events.
Aberdeen Art Gallery first fell under the wing of Aberdeen Town Council in 1907, following on from the public-spirited founders who founded the Gallery to open up their private collections for the citizens to enjoy.
The project our colleagues have led is the most significant and inspiring cultural development undertaken since then – a once in a generation reinvention of one of the city’s most iconic and inspiring venues, one we should all celebrate.