After more than a century bringing literature and learning to the people of Wakefield, the city's Drury Lane Library has entered a new era as a centre of its creative community.
Following a £3m transformation, the elegant stone building has become part of the next-door Art House, containing 34 fully-accessible studios, exhibition and meeting space.
It opened on Thursday 3 December – International Day of People with Disabilities – when guests also got the first chance to see the exhibition Wakefield Industrial and Fine Art: 150
Years. This commemorates the Wakefield Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition of 1865 and brings together specially-designed wallpapers by Laura Slater and Fraser Muggeridge with a selection of
Victorian items loaned by Wakefield Museum (note the then state-of-the-art flushing toilet bowl!).
The 1865 event encouraged 'Artisans, Mechanics, Manufacturers, Inventors, Artists, Scholars, and all Workpeople' to submit items they had made themselves; the 2015 exhibition is intended both as a tribute and an exploration of what the spirit of those years might mean to the people of Wakefield today.
The refurbishment of the building, which was opened by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in June 1906 after he gave £8,000 towards the cost, has made the most of
many of its architectural details including Arts and Crafts tiles, parquet flooring and the original librarian's desk.
Art House chairwoman, Jane Glaister OBE, said: "We are delighted to see the this ambitious development completed and the historic Drury Lane library restored and occupied by a wide range of tenants.
"Our ambition is to become a nationally recognised organisation that places diverse art and artists at the heart of cultural debate. Our new space creates a platform to engage with artists and audiences and I look forward to seeing it become a leading creative resource that supports a creative community to develop professionally and artistically."
The Art House is open to the public from 10am to 4pm, Tuesdays to Thursdays, as well as for special events including the bi-monthly Wakefield Artwalk (next one Wednesday 27 January).
The main sources of funding for the Drury Lane conversion were the Arts Council (£1.3m) and European Regional Development Fund (£1.2m), while Wakefield Council gave a 25-year lease for the building.
For more information, go to www.the-arthouse.org.uk.