All staff from Lincoln Drill Hall are facing redundancy at the end of October amid the coronavirus pandemic as trustees explore a new use for the arts venue.
The 19 job losses come after the City of Lincoln Council said it would not be renewing its funding for the theatre and concert hall in Free School Lane.
Phil Hamlyn Williams, chairman of trustees, told BBC Radio Lincolnshire: “The greatest sadness is the fact that a lot of the work we were doing in the city of Lincoln will stop, so we feel for those people as well, the young people, the people with disabilities, the older people for whom the Drill Hall was a place of safety.”
He said he was very hopeful that new uses would be found for the building including arts and culture.
Mr Hamlyn Williams said the venue has found itself in its current predicament due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “So many arts venues across the country have closed. We were kept sort of alive by the furlough scheme but with furlough coming to an end at the end of October, that was curtains.”
The Drill Hall had not planned to reopen until next year and was already facing a loss of £139,000.
The city council’s decision to cease its funding attracted criticism from Councillor Colin Davie, Lincolnshire County Council’s economy chief.
He described it as brutal and added that the county council was working with the venue on “a more sustainable business case for funding” for the future.
But the City of Lincoln Council leader Ric Metcalfe hit back and accused Cllr Davie of “hypocrisy” and “playing to the gallery”.
He said: “The city council has been very gradually reducing the Drill Hall’s grant since 2013 and trying to encourage it to adopt a more financially sustainable business plan for the whole of that time.
“At no time in the past has the Conservative county council been willing to give financial support to the Drill Hall and, despite Cllr Davie’s promises, will not do so now.
“This is despite the fact that a substantial number of its patrons are from outside Lincoln – the Drill Hall having always been a resource for the county.”
He said “successive” Conservative government public spending cuts since 2010 had “helped bring about the situation where the city council has been unable to continue the grant to our wonderful Drill Hall”.
He added that Councillor Davie had been an “enthusiastic supporter” of his party in that time.
Cllr Metcalfe asked: “Speaking of ‘brutal decisions’ Councillor Davie, how about the decision you supported of the county council to close our much loved Usher Art Gallery?
“It’s very simple, the Conservative-controlled county council has launched a bid to have a county-based unitary council for Lincolnshire so it can control all public services in Lincolnshire. That could become the ‘brutal’ reality.”
Cllr Davie last month said he stands by his authority’s decision to give notice on the Usher Gallery to focus more on the neighbouring Collection as part of a heritage shake-up.
Business cases for what happens to the gallery are still being drawn up and examined.
He said: “People no longer want to stare at walls in the old way. An art collection is an art collection and only so many people want to go and look.
“The future is going to be around digital art in my view. The way people engage with art, and the kind of art they engage with is changing and making the arguments for keeping things as they were is no longer sustainable.
“People have to adapt to change, and they need to embrace the new forms of communication the new forms of opportunity.
“You cannot continue to put public money into things without the public being asked to have a view on it and the wider taxpayers don’t seem to support the position adopted by the small group of people who are so vociferous about the Usher.
“My personal view is that we need an offer for Lincoln that appeals to more visitors from farther afield around the arts and culture and entertainment and I believe the Collection can be the centre point for that offer.
“How the Usher adapts to that is down to those who are making a case for it.”