October 23, 2020

$2m gallery opening is extraordinary achievement

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Staff from the new gallery

After years of waiting, hoping and fundraising, the new Esterley Tibbetts Highway home of the National Gallery opened at last on Wednesday night.

Set on four acres donated by Harquail Theatre benefactor Helen Harquail, the $2 million two-storey, two-building purpose-built, 9,000-square-foot home includes classroom education, an art studio, a library, rotating exhibits on the ground floor, multi-media facilities and a permanent exhibition of Cayman’s best-known artists in the upper gallery.

Just around the back of the Harquail Theatre, and accessed by a fresh driveway on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, near the Lawrence Boulevard roundabout, the gallery and landscaped gardens – designed by former Camana Bay architect Sandy Urquhart — welcomed hundreds of local supporters Wednesday night, touring the premises and listening to speeches by Founding Director Leslie Bigleman, current Director Natalie Urquhart and Chief Officer in the Ministry of Culture, Jennifer Ahearn, standing in for Minister Mark Scotland.

Calling the opening an “extraordinary achievement,” Ms Ahearn told the audience gathered in the sculpture garden that “artists are the true historians of our islands”, saying the gallery “has been working in support of local artists” for years.

The main exhibition hall boasted a dozen canvasses by Cayman’s Bendel Hydes, who himself attended the “Donor’s Opening” ceremony on Tuesday, accompanied by Governor Duncan Taylor and Ms Harquail. Upstairs, the permanent exhibition features 120 paintings, sculptures and multi-media works, while a David Bridgeman sculpture, set in the driveway roundabout, greets visitors

“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” Ms Urquhart said, thanking a series of private donors who had provided 95% of funding for the project. “The National Gallery staff put in countless hours and I thank them for their loyalty and faith,” she said, announcing launch of a new website next week.

Declaring the gallery officially open, and ready for public access on 6 February, she finished: “We want this building to be alive and full of energy at all times.”

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