Appreciating Wright of Derby
October 10 2012
Picture: Derby Museum
Read this tragic little editorial in the Derby Telegraph, and weep:
Today we pose a controversial question in the hope of provoking a serious debate.
Do we invest time and money in trying to maximise the potential of the city's impressive multi-million pound Joseph Wright Collection or, at a time of deep recession when the city council is being forced to cut millions from its budget, do we sell off the works of art to fund other projects?
Why are we asking such a question? Because, in a year when the Joseph Wright Gallery reopened in Derby after a £150,000 refurbishment, paid for by council tax payers, 40% of those people we asked had never heard of him, while 13% had heard his name but did not know he was an internationally-acclaimed painter.
We even tried to make the survey a little easier by posing our question outside some of the key places in Derby associated with the artist. And all of the 100 people quizzed lived locally and came from all age groups.
We have nothing against our heritage – indeed we are rightly proud of it – but we feel it is vital that the people of Derby engage in a debate about such an important issue.
Clearly some of the lack of knowledge could be tackled with improved education. We wonder just how many of our children are taught about Joseph Wright in our primary and secondary schools?
We could also follow the example of other city's like Wakefield, which built a gallery bearing the name of the world-famous sculptor, Barbara Hepworth, who was born in the Yorkshire city.
But, to pursue this option, will cost money and it needs to be supported by all sections of our community. We wonder whether there is an appetite for this sort of thing when so many people are losing their jobs or struggling to cope with cuts to services.
Is now the time to cash in this valuable asset and plough the money into something which will give real and significant benefit to the people of our city?
It is a difficult question but it needs to be asked.
No it doesn't. The question that really needs to be asked is why, in an editorial in which it complains about bad education, the Derby Telegraph cannot spell 'cities' correctly.
Still, it's at least heartening to read that Derby Museum, in a bid to 'increase awareness' of Derby is planning to mount a touring exhibition of 35 paintings by Wright.