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Glynn Vivian becomes first UK Art Gallery of Sanctuary

Swansea’s Glynn Vivian Art Gallery.

Swansea Council’s Glynn Vivian Art Gallery has become the first in the UK to be awarded the accolade Art Gallery of Sanctuary.

Sanctuary Awards – backed by the UK City of Sanctuary movement – celebrate the commitment of organisations to ensure a warm welcome and inclusivity for all.

Last year, Swansea celebrated 10 years as a City of Sanctuary, and the gallery’s award helps to illustrate the area’s ongoing support of refugees and people seeking asylum.

Over the past six years, the Glynn Vivian has worked with Swansea City of Sanctuary to offer weekly art sessions led by and for refugees and people seeking asylum in the local community.

The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery.

Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “Swansea is a welcoming city and our cultural sector plays a huge role in that.”

A City of Sanctuary event took place at Swansea city centre’s Volcano Theatre on November 12. This saw the gallery formally accept its new status.

Supported by a Taking Part grant from the Art Council of Wales, and the Friends of the Glynn Vivian, the gallery provides workshops, events, art resources and materials to people.

The pandemic has seen the creation of a welcome banner; this has been displayed at the gallery and will be on show at the National Waterfront Museum next year.

Other projects by the gallery’s welcome group have included community exhibitions at the Glynn Vivian, a mosaic display at Morriston Hospital and participant portraits on hoardings around the city centre’s emerging Copr Bay district.

City of Sanctuary committee member and asylum seeker Funmilayo Olaniyan said: “The Glynn Vivian is doing a fantastic job. Staff and visitors there learn from sanctuary seekers and involve them in creative activities.”

Thanuja Hettiarachchi, a refugee and the coordinator of Swansea City of Sanctuary’s 10th anniversary programme, said: “The Glynn Vivian does everything it can to include sanctuary seekers in all their activities.”

Glynn Vivian curator Karen MacKinnon said: “We’re delighted to become the UK’s first Gallery of Sanctuary.”

City of Sanctuary UK chief officer Siân Summers-Rees said: “The Glynn Vivian reflects our concept of sanctuary in arts so well.”