The Gallery was originally founded as Oriel 31 in Welshpool, named after its first premises at 31 High Street.
The Gallery was designated one of the seven Development Galleries of Wales and expanded its operations to the Davies Memorial Gallery which had been purpose-built in 1967 in Newtown a gallery / community centre with a legacy left by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, Wales’ greatest art collectors and benefactors. The premises are owned by the MCRA (Montgomeryshire Community Regeneration Association), a separate trust with connections to the Davies family.
From the late 1990s Oriel 31 and the MCRA began to work in partnership to develop a capital project to refurbish the building as an art gallery, resulting in an ambitious two-phase Capital Development Programme.
The Gallery closed throughout 2002 for Phase One of the capital programme. This programme upgraded the main exhibition space (to 120 sq m), created a shop, a foyer and a glass and steel extension for a Café.
The Gallery reopened in January 2003 and was renamed Oriel Davies Gallery in recognition of Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, Wales’ greatest art collectors and benefactors.
Phase Two of the capital programme took place during 2004, giving Oriel Davies an enlarged second exhibition space (to 95 sq m), an education room and a resource area. The foyer space was doubled to provide a new gallery shop and an external café patio was created.
The total cost of the capital development was £1.7 million. The funding partners were the Arts Council of Wales Lottery, The Gwendoline & Margaret Davies Charity, Powys County Council and The Wales Tourist Board. Oriel Davies’s capital programme created one of the most distinctive medium-scale art galleries in Wales. The architectural design by B3Burgess heightened the Gallery’s visibility through polished stainless steel fascias and retained the simple, modernist lines and beautiful natural light of the original building. It provided uncluttered, flexible exhibition spaces ideal for the display of contemporary art. Heightened security and environmental conditions allowed the Gallery to take loans from major national art collections. The new Gallery was welcoming to visitors, with the double entrance and modest scale of the foyer and shop creating an open and informal hub for easy circulation and excellent access.
Oriel Davies was accepted onto the Arts Council of Wales Sustainability Scheme, enabling the Gallery to work with arts consultants and other professionals to guide and assess the needs of the organisation after refurbishment.
Oriel Davies Gallery was awarded an Arts Council of Wales Beacon Company Award 2008-10 for excellence and innovation.