Kirkcudbright’s status as Scotland’s Artists’ Town took a giant step forward last week with the opening of the Kirkcudbright Galleries in the former Town Hall on St Mary’s Street. As Friends of the Galleries, Julie and I were honoured to be invited to the preview on Friday ahead of Saturday’s opening to the public.

The multi-million pound project, generously financed by the EU Leader Fund, Heritage Lottery, Dumfries and Galloway Council and by the sterling efforts of Kirkcudbright’s own art lovers, has transformed the murky and musty red sandstone structure into a bright, inviting and contemporary space.

The Ground Floor is dedicated to the paintings, drawings, illustrations, book covers, ceramics and sculptures created by artists who lived in or visited the town to take advantage of its sparkling light and stunning landscapes.

Works by Hoernel, Peploe and Jessie M. King feature prominently, alongside a meticulous re-creation of Charles Oppenheimer’s studio.

But towering above all else for the Galleries’ early weeks is Landseer’s iconic Monarch of the Glen, gazing imperiously down on all who approach, whilst Kirkcudbright’s identity and attractions are neatly summed up in a stencilled quotation from Dorothy L. Sayers, “If one lives in Galloway, one either fishes or paints…”.

Visiting exhibitions occupy the Second Floor with a varied, occasionally challenging raft of contemporary offerings from WASPS – Workshops Artists Studio Provision Scotland – contrasting sharply with the traditional fare below.

Particularly striking is the curved, almost sculptural representation of three androgynous figures entitled Neutrois/Trans Identity, which is art at its very best. Everything was pleasantly watered by a glass of decent white wine (hence the slightly blurry photo!) and accompanied by delicious Galloway nibbles!

For more information on this splendid addition to our Artists Town’s attractions, please visit www.kirkcudbrightgalleries.org.uk and, should you be in a generous mood, you might very well consider becoming a Friend of Kirkcudbright Galleries for a mere £20 a year.

~ Peter Duncan