The Charleston Centenary Project
WHY MUST CHARLESTON CHANGE?
Cradled beneath the majestic heights of Firle Beacon, a ramshackle ensemble of flint, brick and oak barns and cowsheds were a continual source of artistic inspiration. Since the 1970s, a modern farm has functioned apart from the house; the Granary was demolished, the barns were damaged by fire and are now derelict. In 1986 the Charleston Trust was founded to restore the house, which has been run ever since as a highly successful museum, attracting over 35,000 visitors a year.
Today, the Charleston Trust has the opportunity to restore the aesthetic integrity of Charleston by re-uniting the farm buildings with the house, while also providing the organisation with space to accomplish its vision as ‘the historic embodiment of creative innovation’. In order to proceed, the Trust needs to establish financial security. In 2016 – the centenary of Bell and Grant’s arrival here – the barn doors will open onto a completed refurbishment, as well as new purpose-built resources.
This is an opportunity to champion an extraordinary initiative. The Centenary Project will reclaim Charleston’s origins. More than an art centre, Charleston will return to what it once was: a crucible, a fertile powerhouse – a place to gather, to create, to challenge, to share work, to generate hope and excitement, and to change the world.
Today, twenty-seven years since the house opened to the public, the organisation has become partly a victim of its own success:
- The historic farm buildings are falling down; they may be at risk from unsympathetic or unsuitable development unless Charleston takes them on.
-The lane can no longer cope with increased traffic, and the presence of vehicles in the proximity of the house is damaging, unsightly, noisy and unsafe.
-Increased visitor numbers put pressure on the house which is fragile and cannot cope with many more.
-While remaining financially sustainable (it receives no public money towards its running costs), the organisation’s growth requires it to raise ever greater income each year to cover its core costs.
-Galleries are reluctant to lend exhibits that cannot be shown in a temperature-controlled and secure exhibition space. The Angelica Garnett Gift – a one-of-a-kind collection of over 8,000 works of art which have never been studied or catalogued – is currently stored in cardboard boxes.
-Portable spaces have to be hired in to meet demand for events.
-We have run out of storage space for shop stock, garden and events equipment.
-The café serving and preparation space is too small to meet the public demand for meals in an out-of-the-way destination.
-Staff are working in cramped and – at times – unhealthy conditions.
-Lavatories are at best inadequate, at worst insanitary.
The historic flint Barn will be restored to provide a new auditorium and a café.
The Granary will be reconstructed to provide a creative studio space.
In a hidden courtyard to the west of the barn sympathetically-designed new buildings will house a dedicated collection store, gallery and lavatories.
The existing shop and offices will be refurbished.
A new access lane and car park will make the site car-free and pedestrian-friendly, returning it to the appearance of a 1950s farmyard.
WHAT THE PROJECT WILL BRING TO CHARLESTON
-The Charleston Centenary Project will safeguard our peaceful agricultural setting while reclaiming and creating space for a range of cultural initiatives.
-Our public provision will be extended, improving and enhancing the experience of visitors to the museum.
-Charleston will become a local, national and international hub, another jewel in the crown of the Sussex coast art gems: the Jerwood Gallery at Hastings, Bexhill’s modernist masterpiece the De la Warr Pavilion, Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery, Berwick Church, Monk’s House, the superb design collection at Brighton Museum, Goodwood’s sculpture Park, and Pallant House in Chichester.
-Geographically situated at its heart, it will become an accessible attraction for the community, families and walkers on the South Downs Way as well as a destination for scholars, art pilgrims, weekenders and tourists.
-It will expand its educational offer in the widest sense, crossing the boundaries of age, social background and ability.
Planning Permission and Listed Buildings Consent for the entire Centenary Project were granted in March 2011.
The Centenary Project will cost £7million of which the Heritage Lottery Fund has granted £2.4 million. Pledges of support has also been received from a number of other Trusts, Foundations and individuals.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
This is a rare opportunity to become involved with an unusual, conspicuous and exciting project which will become the most talked-about rural arts venue in Britain. Charleston is offering naming rights on a number of aspects of the Centenary Project. We welcome donations.
Contact Charleston’s Head of Development Emma Knight; firstname.lastname@example.org