Merton Art Society members protest loss of exhibition space at Wimbledon Library
Devastated artists say they have nowhere to display their work after exhibition space was converted into a tech campus.
Members of Merton Art Society have been organising solo and group exhibitions in Wimbledon library for 25 years.
But in January they were told the space would no longer be available to them, after a six-month lease to Wimbledon Tech Campus, with potential to extend, was signed off by the Council.
Marcelle Burton, painter and member of Merton Art Society, said: "We're really upset because there's nowhere else comparable to that place.
"We do not think it right that a publicly-owned gallery such as this should be hired out for exclusive, full-time use by another group. It should be shared.
"Public spaces like that are few and far between. They are the life blood of the community."
The society is now planning an exhibition at the Norman Plastow gallery but complain it is very small, with space for only one artwork per person.
Malcolm Nash, draftsman and treasurer of the society, said: "A lot of the members of the society wouldn't normally exhibit and wouldn't exhibit anywhere else but are given the opportunity so it's quite important to them."
Merton Art Society has about 60 members, mostly retired hobby artists, who have been organising two group exhibitions and several solo shows at the library every year.
Councillor Nick Draper, cabinet member for community and culture, said: "The Wimbledon Gallery space remains as it always has been, a private space available for anybody to hire.
"Due to under occupancy we have let the space on a longer arrangement to the Wimbledon Tech Campus.
"The Tech Campus is a group of local budding entrepreneurs whose work complements the library service excellently and will provide wider community benefit.
"There are other spaces across the borough available to hire and our excellent Arts Development team can provide advice for artists and arts groups in getting their work displayed."
Wimbledon Tech Campus provides office space and workshops to aspiring digital entrepreneurs, for a monthly membership fee of £100.
It is supported by Merton Council, Love Wimbledon, Merton Chamber of Commerce and the Wimbledon Library Services Team.
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