‘Excellence in Essex’: Firstsite Colchester wins Museum of the Year 2021 5 Oct 2021

Firstsite, a contemporary arts organisation in Colchester, has won Art Fund’s £100k Museum of the Year Award for 2021. The gallery is ten years old and shows a diverse mix of historic, modern and contemporary art from around the world. It has also developed strong relationships with artists and the local community, dispelling the exclusiveness sometimes associated with contemporary art. During the pandemic, it lent its building to Community 360 to run a food bank, and created art packs which were downloaded 92,000 times and led to an art exhibition in people’s windows to create a nationwide gallery. It also offers free school meals in its café every school holiday.  Its response to Black Lives Matter includes a downloadable work commissioned from Elsa James and the Super Black festival, celebrating black culture in Essex. Art Fund Director and Chair of judges Jenny Waldman said “they are an outstanding example of innovation and integrity. At their core is powerful, engaged contemporary art, housed in a gallery that gives space for everyone, from artists to NHS staff to local families and refugee groups. They exceeded all our expectations. Here is a small organisation thinking big and caring for their local community. Here is excellence in Essex.”

The other shortlisted museums were: Centre for Contemporary Art Derry- Londonderry Experience Barnsley, Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds and Timespan in North East Scotland, which will all receive £15k as a runner’s up prize. Art Fund, Art Newspaper (collection of articles on shortlist), Firstsite (film),  Arts Industry, Art Newspaper, Museums Journal