A new contemporary art gallery was officially opened in Athlone yesterday [Thursday] by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan.
Luan Gallery is the first purpose-built, municipal visual art gallery located in the Midlands. The aim of the new space, run by Athlone Art and Heritage Ltd, is to promote a dynamic contemporary visual art programme of both established and emerging artists.
A total of €3.4 million was invested in the development of the gallery by the Border Midland and Western Regional Assembly, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and Athlone Town Council.
The 575 sq m gallery was designed by Keith Williams Architects, who also designed the Wexford Opera House. The new dedicated art space is located on a spectacular site overlooking the river Shannon, adjacent to the town’s historic bridge, Athlone Castle, and the Church of St Peter and Paul. The scheme adapts the town’s historic 1897 Father Mathew Hall into a new gallery, adding a new wing with state-of-the-art audiovisual capabilities and a riverfront gallery space overlooking the Shannon.
The name of the new gallery derives from the Irish for Athlone, Baile Áth Luain, and was chosen following a public competition to suggest a name for the new facility.
Speaking as he opened the gallery, Minister Deenihan said, “This stunningly designed gallery will serve to display the great wealth of local artistic talent and will allow the artists involved an opportunity to showcase their work. The gallery, along with Athlone Castle which has just re-opened as a state-of-the-art multi-sensory visitor attraction after extensive renovation, certainly puts Athlone in a strong position to become a vibrant and attractive location for artistic endeavour in the years to come.”
Mayor of Athlone, Cllr Jim Henson, added, “It is fantastic to see this landmark building with new life and function as a modern gallery space. This site will continue to inspire people, as it has always done, for generations to come.”
The development of the Luan Gallery is part of a larger ‘cultural revival’ programme being implemented in the town. As well as the reopening of Athlone Castle, Athlone Art and Heritage Ltd has recently developed Abbey Road Artists’ Studios supporting the professional development of local and visiting arts practitioners in a dedicated space.
Westmeath county manager Danny McLoughlin, said, “The new Luan Gallery is a wonderful addition to Athlone and the county of Westmeath. It is a rich resource that will add significantly to the landscape of the wider midlands region.”
The Luan Gallery opens to the public today, Friday November 30, with an exhibition featuring the work of acclaimed Irish and international artists from the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s (IMMA ) permanent collection. Entry to the exhibition is free.
Contact Athlone Art and Heritage Ltd at (090 ) 6442154 or see www.athloneartandheritage.ie