Tŷ Pawb on the impact of being an Art Fund Museum of the Year 2022 finalist
Heather Wilson, volunteer co-ordinator, and Jo Marsh, creative director, from Tŷ Pawb in Wrexham on the impact of being an Art Fund Museum of the Year 2022 finalist.
Even if it hadn’t already been apparent to us, no secret was made of what an unusual and unlikely candidate for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2022 our young organisation was.
Our ‘quirky’ concept (an art gallery inside of an indoor market under a multi-storey carpark), our location (post-industrial Wrexham, north Wales), and our mission – to welcome everyone to participate in arts and culture; to make art not just accessible, but useful for our constituents – all add up to something that’s really brilliant, but quite difficult to condense into an elevator pitch.
Tŷ Pawb has been on a long journey since opening our doors to a parade of community floats, shoppers, art lovers, the curious and the sceptical on a soggy Wrexham day in April 2018. We faced initial cynicism locally, questioning spending on arts in hard times, change to a longstanding local landmark and interruption to market traders’ businesses, which all caused backlash.
Yet we have been taken into the heart of our local community. Through our programme of ‘Arte Util’ – informed socially engaged projects – we have been able to foster positive relationships with local people and make our constituents our biggest ambassadors.
This has included work with Wrexham’s Portuguese diaspora community in our Useful Art Space, developing our rooftop garden with north Wales mental health charity KIM Inspire, and our provision of family activities including free weekly play sessions, alongside an ambitious exhibition programme, artist residencies, and live music and comedy events.
Tŷ Pawb’s shortlisting for the prize came at an auspicious time for Wrexham. The county was in full campaign mode for #Wrecsam2025, the bid to win City of Culture for the region, making it to the final four alongside County Durham, Southampton and eventual winners, Bradford. The Queen’s Jubilee celebrations brought City Status to our market town, making us Wales’ newest city.
The impact of being a finalist has been profound and tangible. We see it in our social media engagement and in the pages of our visitor book. Between April and July 2022 we gained nearly 1,000 new followers across our social media platforms, and our website received 27,000 visits – 1,200 of these on the day of the announcement – a record for us.
All these new followers and newsletter subscribers have contributed significantly to our footfall, with the visitor numbers for the exhibitions ‘The Tailor’s Tale’ and ‘Blanket Coverage’ during the Museum of the Year coverage, being our biggest since the pandemic.
National media coverage included features on Tŷ Pawb in the Times, the Telegraph, the Independent, The One Show, Front Row, Times Radio, BBC News, BBC Wales Today and S4C. As a small team at a newer organisation, this level of recognition has been extremely heartening, affirming the value of what we do and giving us the confidence to pursue more ambitious projects.
It was encouraging to be longlisted, an honour to be shortlisted, and a dream come true to reach the final. This is just the start for Tŷ Pawb and we’re not looking back!
Tŷ Pawb was a finalist for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2022.
Could your organisation be Art Fund Museum of the Year 2023? Applications are now open for the 2023 prize. More information on how to apply is available here