Closure of Yorkshire Sculpture Park was 'essential' for safety of staff and visitors
For the first time in over 40 years Yorkshire Sculpture Park was forced to close its gates to the public in March due to the dreadful Covid-19.
This decision to close to all our visitors, staff, our close neighbours in West Bretton village, the people of Wakefield and beyond, was taken with a heavy heart, but was essential to protect our staff and visitors, and to meet the important requirements of social distancing.
Having closed our galleries and restaurants, we wanted to keep the parkland open to provide an opportunity to view our internationally renowned collection of sculpture in the open air, but like the National Trust and similar venues the challenge of dealing with so many visitors and still respect the practice of social distancing was too much for our staff and for many families.
Although YSP does gratefully receive some public funding from the Arts Council England and Wakefield Council, the vast majority (80 per cent) must be raised from other sources.
Much of this comes from our visitors through the car park, restaurants, cafes, shops and other trading activity. Due to the forced closure, this income has ceased and as a result we cannot afford to operate the Park.
This is a difficult, sometimes tragic, time for our community and many sacrifices are having to be made.
For education and the arts the future is very uncertain, but as we move towards some form of normality it is vital that cultural institutions survive, to contribute to our wellbeing and safeguard our cultural heritage.
Following the government announcement on 10 May we are aware that some may assume the Park will reopen with immediate effect.
However, YSP is not a public park and current guidelines do not allow visits to private or ticketed attractions.
We are very busy planning a phased reopening, which places great emphasis on the health and safety of both visitors and staff.
We are sorry it is not possible for YSP to open at this time. Although the majority of our staff furloughed through the Government Job Retention Scheme, we have retained a small, dedicated team who are working hard to ensure the survival of YSP and to establish strategies to reopen and, when the time comes, to welcome back visitors from Wakefield and beyond.
Over four decades Yorkshire Sculpture Park has grown to be Europe’s leading sculpture park, held in high esteem internationally and loved by many; from those who visit religiously to those who come occasionally, sometimes returning to a childhood memory.
We are passionate about accessibility to modern and contemporary art, and we encourage appreciation and enjoyment of sculpture and landscape by half a million people each year, including more than 35,000 children and young people through our education programmes.
Now we are scoping a phased re-opening; like everyone else, we look to China and Italy and apply our best guesses and deepest hopes.
Meanwhile, digital platforms have become our public face, with Throwback Thursday photos resulting in wonderful, heartwarming memories from the public on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
In the meantime if, like me, you’re missing the magic of being at YSP, we hope this recent podcast will brighten your day.
Our Head of Curatorial Programme Helen Pheby was recently interviewed by actor and artist David Oakes, as part of his natural history podcast Trees A Crowd, which celebrates nature and the stories of those who care deeply for it.
Visit treesacrowd.fm to listen to the podcast, or search ‘Yorkshire Sculpture Park’ on social media for the latest news and updates on the park.