10 exciting new things to discover at The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum

After a £500,000 transformation, Cheltenham's The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum is open again, with so much to discover including a new community art gallery and a buzzing arts café.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Discover a host of new spaces, including The Wilson Kitchen and The Sir Charles Irving Community Art Gallery, at the newly reopened The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum in Cheltenham.
Discover a host of new spaces, including The Wilson Kitchen and The Sir Charles Irving Community Art Gallery, at the newly reopened The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum in Cheltenham.

The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum in Cheltenham finally reopened its doors to the public in July 2022 after its £500,000 refurbishment. 

With everything from a brand-new gallery space to a vibrant new arts café, SoGlos rounds up 10 exciting new things to discover on your next visit...

The Wilson Kitchen

The Wilson Kitchen arts café on the ground floor welcomes visitors with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and a selection of delicious cakes and pastries as soon as they step through the door. The vibrant café offers a small but perfectly formed menu covering tasty breakfasts to light lunches, with vegan and gluten-free options, as well as a kids' menu. There's plenty of seating in a variety of spaces too, from family-sized booths to cosy couches, plus quieter spaces that are ideal for a working lunch. 

The Sir Charles Irving Community Art Gallery

Created with money bequeathed from the Sir Charles Irving Trust in 2020, the new Sir Charles Irving Community Art Gallery is located on a mezzanine above one of The Wilson Kitchen's seating areas. The gallery supports local talent by providing a 'low cost, high impact' space for artists to showcase their work, as well as providing support with exhibition planning; accessibility and interpretation; online and social media promotion; and the opportunity to sell works - with applications for April 2023 to March 2024 open now. 

Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk exhibition

The Wilson's first major touring exhibition is the nationally acclaimed Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk, produced by National Museums Scotland. Showcasing inclusivity and body positivity in the fashion industry, the fascinating exhibition spans plus size fashion, age, gender inclusivity and disability representation and features pieces from Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, Max Mara and Dries Van Noten, as well as the world's first mannequins representing Little People, made using casts from activist Sinéad Burke's body. Body Beautiful is at The Wilson until Sunday 2 October 2022 and is free to visit. 

Break The Cycle community exhibition

Complementing the fashion theme of Body Beautiful, The Wilson's first community-led exhibition in The Sir Charles Irving Community Art Gallery is Break The Cycle, showcasing upcycled denim garments created by young people from National Star College and Gloucestershire Carers, with the help of designers and artists Milligan Beaumont and Jussara Nuzaré. Highlighting the incredible amount of resources and waste involved in producing just one pair of new jeans, the exhibition shows young people rejecting fast fashion, embracing buying second hand and creatively upcycling garments to turn them into unique, high fashion looks - with a striking centrepiece made entirely from materials that were destined for landfill. 

Foyle Learning Centre

The newly refurbished Foyle Learning Centre provides a fantastic space for hands-on workshops. Creative Explorers Summer Craft Club takes place from Wednesday 3 to Wednesday 24 August 2022, giving four to 10-year-olds the chance to get creative in artist-led workshops, featuring a tour of the museum, mask-making, painting, tie dying and more, for £25 per session with drinks and lunch included, or £20 without lunch. 

Creative craft courses

Keen crafters can embark on a four-week course to learn how to craft their very own enamelled jewellery this September 2022. Artist and jeweller, Josie Wickes, will guide participants through how to make, file and polish metal jewellery, as well as how to create beautiful enamel surfaces on metal, while one of The Wilson's curators, Kirsty Hartsiotis, will take participants behind the scenes of the museum's Arts and Crafts collection to find inspiration for their designs. The course starts on Friday 9 September 2022 and costs £130 for all four sessions, with all materials included, too. 

Arts and Crafts Collection

The Wilson boasts an extensive and internationally important collection of items from the Arts and Crafts Movement, spanning furniture and pottery to textiles and jewellery, many of which are being newly displayed in a beautifully redecorated gallery space complete with a hand painted mural. Inspired by William Morris, whose quotes adorn the walls around the gallery, the British Arts and Crafts Movement championed creative work made by hand and was also conscious of sustainable production and conservation - with The Wilson's collection showing off a variety of techniques, as well as documenting the movement's connection to Cheltenham and the Cotswolds.

The Makers' Space

Providing a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes processes of local artists and makers, the Makers' Space at The Wilson is introducing visitors to painters Mark Amis and Alex Merry, who are responsible for the spectacular mural which provides the backdrop to the newly displayed Arts and Crafts collection. 

Bang the Drum sessions in the WOW Gallery

Budding young musicians can make some noise in the WOW Gallery with Bang the Drum sessions taking place from Wednesday 14 September to Wednesday 26 October 2022. From exploring instruments to learning simple beats and patterns, it's ideal for little ones who love making a racket - with tickets costing £5 each. 

We Are Creators

As part of the We Are Creators programme, The Wilson is giving six emerging and early career local artists free space in its new artists' studios on the third floor, as well as access to exhibition space and a variety of creative opportunities during their residency. The first group or artists in residence are visually impaired mixed media artist Sarah Goddard; Joseph Casey; artist and curator Tim Martin; artist and environmentalist Sean Savage Ferrari; sitar player Dinesh Patel; climate activist and illustrator Tolmeia Gregory; and painter Zack Thorne. There will be another chance to apply in 2023, too - with the full eligibility criteria available on The Wilson's website.

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