Gateshead honours three titans of the arts world

THREE of the main figures in Gateshead’s cultural renaissance were honoured yesterday as part of celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

Freemen of the Borough of Gateshead - Sune Nordgren, Antony Gormley and Alan Smith
Freemen of the Borough of Gateshead - Sune Nordgren, Antony Gormley and Alan Smith

THREE of the main figures in Gateshead’s cultural renaissance were honoured yesterday as part of celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

Angel of the North creator Antony Gormley and Baltic founders Sune Nordgren and Alan Smith received the freedom of the town in recognition of their services to the arts.

A Northumbrian piper led them into the ceremony at the gallery housed within the converted flour mill on the banks of the Tyne.

Turner Prize winner Antony Gormley was praised for the role he played in raising the profile of Gateshead, nationally and internationally, by leader of the council Mick Henry.

The artist said he was delighted to receive the honour and would always feel part of Gateshead.

“Ever since the very beginning of the Angel, I have felt very much a part of up here,” he said. “It’s brilliant what continues to happen up here. The Angel is Gateshead’s Angel and I couldn’t have done it without everybody and everything that was already here.

“It’s a huge honour to receive the Freedom of Gateshead.”

Mr Nordgren, the visionary first director of the Baltic, was nominated for services to the arts on the international stage.

After picking up the honour, he said: “Gateshead means a lot to me. I was nearly 50 when I got the job at the Baltic and I believe I was at the peak of my career. I lived here for more than six years and it means so much to me to have the freedom of the town.

“I will always be an ambassador for Gateshead. The town is unstoppable now and I know it will continue to do great things.”

Alan Smith, who was nominated for his distinguished services to culture, architecture and development, was also delighted to receive the award.

The County Durham-born architect said: “It was a very proud moment and a real honour, but it’s not just about me but the people who I have worked with.”

Mr Smith, founding chair of the Baltic, established the North East-based architectural practice, redboxdesigngroup, and spent five years on the board of Northern Arts. Mick Henry said: “They have all done outstanding work for Gateshead. They continue to be proud and effective ambassadors for Gateshead. It’s an honour that they are being honoured today.” The Baltic officially marked its 10th anniversary on July 13.

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