Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council prioritised the need to improve the town's Museum and Art Gallery facilities in Walsall's regeneration plans.
In 1989 a competition was held for the design of a new art gallery opposite the site of the old museum and art gallery. In 1991 the repercussions of the Poll Tax led to the proposals being shelved. It was not until 1993 that the project was resurrected thanks to the Walsall City Challenge scheme.
Walsall was successful in the competition for £37.5m from the Government, for urban regeneration. A dedicated Project Team was appointed under the directorship of Peter Jenkinson who was then Head of Museums and Galleries. Feasibility studies and reports established that the Lichfield Street site was not adequate for the new more ambitious proposals. A new higher profile central site was chosen.
The New Art Gallery, Walsall, was the subject of an international two stage architectural competition. Caruso St John was announced as the winning practice in December 1995, chosen for their sensitive approach to the brief.
The Project Team developed a clear philosophy from which the brief evolved. The building was to be 'a model of accessibility', have a strong visual presence and afford the visitor opportunities to make links between the gallery experience and the outside world.
The project was the subject of consultation with Walsall residents during October and November 1995. The consultation document played a pivotal role in the successful application to the Lottery, European Regional Development Fund and other financial bodies.
The Lottery Grant was announced in October 1996, with Walsall awarded £15.75m, the largest amount given to any project outside London. Further funding was subsequently secured and construction work began in January 1997. An important factor in the selection of the successful contractor was the requirement that the public were to be permitted access to the site, and at a certain stage in the construction, site tours were organised. In February 2000 The New Art Gallery Walsall was opened to the general public.