Photo: Douglas Atfield
In the beginning
Founded in 1994, firstsite’s original home was Colchester’s eighteenth-century Minories building. From this base, our innovative programme of exhibitions and professional development for artists began to grow, and to flourish.
In 1996, firstsite became the first visual arts organisation to dedicate an entire gallery to schools’ art; and education and participation remains central to our mission.
Our legacy has grown over the years, as we have built up a significant back catalogue of exhibitions by local, national and international artists.
Highlights include solo shows by Louise Bourgeois, Antony Gormley and Mark Dion. We have also promoted East of England artists nationally and abroad, touring the works of Peter Collingwood, Roderic Barrett, Dale Devereux Barker, Simon Carter and James Dodds.
firstsite's success in reaching out to new audiences for contemporary art drew in tens of thousands of visitors, and by the early noughties, it had become clear that we had outgrown our Minories home.
In 2003 a capital partnership that included Arts Council England, Colchester Borough Council, Essex County Council, the East of England Development Agency, and the University of Essex was formed.
The partnership agreed that a new centre for the visual arts should be the linchpin of a masterplan to develop a creative quarter to the east of Colchester's historic centre.
An ambitious building programme got underway, which would provide a permanent home for firstsite, and form part of Colchester's future heritage.
2011 and beyond
Today, firstsite is a national leader in commissioning new art, providing innovative learning opportunities, and supporting the professional development of local and regional artists, as we fulfil our role to bring the transformative power of art to everyone.