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In March 1998 Ikon Gallery opened its doors to the public in its new home in Oozells Street School, Brindleyplace.

The School was built in 1877, a product of the 1870 Education Act which led to an explosion of new schools throughout the country. It was built by architectural firm Chamberlain & Martin, the former being John Henry Chamberlain who was also responsible for the School of Art in Margaret Street and Springhill Library in Hockley. At this time the area now known as Brindleyplace was a crowded scene of small industrial works and back-to-back houses. The building continued to operate as a school until the late 1960s. For the following thirty years it had an eclectic identity, at times housing a theatrical costume hire department and a road tax and at others standing empty and vandalised, losing its original tower to disrepair.

In 1981, having been granted Grade II listing, Oozells Street School was preserved ahead of the regeneration of Brindleyplace. First mooted in 1987 and following the opening of the ICC in 1991, the new Brindleyplace estate was officially opened in 1994 as an area for both business and leisure with landmark mixed-use buildings built around three public squares.

By this time Ikon was outgrowing its venue in John Bright Street. The move to the Oozells Street School building was in keeping with its heritage as a place of learning and inspiration. Funded by one of the first national lottery capital grants, the conversion preserved the outside shell of the Victorian school, rebuilt the tower to its original design and added a glass-encased scenic lift and stairway. What were once large linked classrooms are now spacious galleries showcasing the best in international contemporary art.

Download our history sheet by local historian Dr. Chris Upton:
From Primary School to Art Gallery

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