LITTORAL Arts Trust and the Kurt Schwitters in England committee have been working since 1998 to promote wider public understanding and appreciation of Schwitters life and work in England, and access to the Elterwater Merz barn. The ongoing project's initiatives include the recovery, documentation and restoration of Kurt Schwitters' last Merzbau project; the Elterwater Merz Barn, located in Cumbria NW England, and the international fundraising campaign that is intended to pay for vital restoration work and sustain the development of the project in the longer term.
The Merz Barn project has five main strategic development strands:
Capital works and land improvements programme, involving restoration and improvements to the existing buildings, lands, woodlands, fields, etc., and establishment of a proposed Kurt Schwitters study/centre or museum on site at the Cylinder Estate;
Public access, community involvement and education, engaging school children, young people, art students, and the wider community with the project;
Scholarly research and related curatorial, publications and communications projects;
International artists' residency programme, art commissions and contemporary;
Environmental programme, involving wildlife habitat, horticultural and sustainable rural crafts projects on the site at Cylinders Estate.
These we envisage will unfold in three main phases (I - III) over the next five years (2009 - 2014), each of which will involve consultations with the local community, local authorities, partner arts organisations, and relevant regional planning and strategic development agencies; i.e. the National Parks, NWDA, National Trust, Arts Council England, and others.
Phase I aims to have the Merz Barn fully restored and stabilized and the replica of the Merz Barn wall installed in place of the missing art work, and this and the Cylinders estate site made accessible for the general public, schools, artists and scholars to come and visit and enjoy in perpetuity and in memory of Kurt Schwitters. We are also plan to begin the restoration of the extensive woodlands, orchards and horticultural gardens that also make up the Cylinder Estate. All going well this work should completed by Autumn 2010.
Apple Orchard, Cylinders Estate
Phase II is under review and, subject to planning consent, basically aims to undertake the refurbishment of two of the other main buildings on the site; (1) conversion of the Shippon (cow barn) as a possible community gallery and a studio workshop centre for use by visiting artists and school groups, and (2) Ivy cottage which is an existing domestic dwelling nearby, to also be upgraded as a caretaker's residence and/or for use as a temporary study residence by visiting artists/scholars. Alongside work will continue on the restoration of the woodlands, orchards, wildlife habitats and horticultural gardens on the Cylinder Estate.
Phase III plans are still just basic proposals at this stage. However, we are hoping to apply for a Heritage Lottery Grant and funding from other sources to consolidate the community, artistic, scholarly and educational programmes that we have begun on site. These include, (again subject to National Park and Local authority planning controls) the creation of a Kurt Schwitters study centre and/or a Merzbau museum on the footprint of the old farm barn (located to the rear of the Shippon), and the establishment of a Kurt Schwitters in England Foundation or Trust which would oversee the future management of the Merz Barn and coordinate all future Kurt Schwitters exhibitions, research and public programmes.
Copyright 2011 by LITTORAL. All rights reserved. LITTORAL is a non-profit arts trust which promotes new creative partnerships, critical art practices and cultural strategies in response to issues about social, environmental and economic change. LITTORAL 42, Lodge Mill Lane, Turn Village, Ramsbottom BL0 0RW, UK. Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1706 827 961 e-mail:Ian@littoral.org.uk.