AN ICONIC art venue could make the difference between Aurigny making a profit or loss by attracting more visitors to Guernsey, business leaders have been told.
David Ummels told the IoD that an iconic art venue could deliver huge benefits for Guernsey. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 23369429)
Venue proposer David Ummels told a business event that his plan could inject up to £15m. into the economy annually after three to four years of full operation – including increasing visitor numbers, which in turn would support transport links. Under the plan, the building that currently houses the Guernsey Information Centre in St Peter Port would be transformed into a ‘world-class’ art venue featuring internationally renowned works as well as supporting local artists. ‘I think that creating a destination would make a significant impact. I feel that this could be the difference between Aurigny making a loss or a profit. This could make the difference between us being able to re-establish links with the 300m. people that are looking at us in a good day,’ said Mr Ummels. The States would be asked to spend up to £5m. refitting the building, said Mr Ummels when he addressed a breakfast seminar organised by the Guernsey branch of the Institute of Directors yesterday. However, a group of philanthropists would underwrite the costs for a number of years. Mr Ummels – a passionate art collector and businessman – would work for free as chief executive officer for several years as the not-for-profit gallery became established. The founder of Art for Guernsey said that the island had many advantages when it came to developing an art-based economy over other parts of the world that had taken a similar path, such as Bilbao in Spain, which hosts a world-famous Guggenheim Art Museum. Making the most of such advantages could encourage existing visitors to spend more and attract new people to the island. ‘We have 130,000 captive customers turning out from cruise ships every year that we do nothing with. That’s a professional mistake. They come here. They buy an ice cream and they go back. That’s pretty much the model. ‘We have a fantastic airport. We have airlines and we have sea links.’ Community assets such as goodwill, a beautiful seafront or the special light in the island that artists loved could also be used to support the launch of an iconic art venue. Expressing his love of the St Peter Port landscape, Mr Ummels added: ‘We should have an asset that capitalises on that beauty because at the moment that beauty is only available to us. The visitors won’t come only because it’s beautiful. They need a reason to come.
‘The existence of an iconic art venue could be an opportunity to create an economic and cultural asset for Guernsey and generate significant benefits.’ Mr Ummels said that he would welcome a dialogue with the States, business and community groups. Speaking after the event, IoD Guernsey branch chairman John Clacy and Chamber executive director Kay Leslie said they were supportive of the project as an economic enabler and community asset.
Article by the Guernsey Press.