Minister Sean Kyne has added his voice to calls that a city centre site, currently being used to display the flagship Galway International Arts Festival exhibition, In The Flesh, become a dedicated art gallery for the city.
Speculation arose on Wednesday that the Galway City Council could be looking at the possibility of acquiring the site, which is located at the rear of the GPO building on Eglinton Street, and is accessed off William Street, past the Premoli shoe shop.
Aire don Ghaeilge, don Ghaeltacht agus do na hOileáin, Seán Kyne, in a statement issued yesterday afternoon said City Hall was looking at engaging with An Post "towards the possibility of acquiring the GPO site".
He then went on to say: "There is a clear lack of contemporary visual arts, performing arts, and children's arts space in the city. As part of Galway 2020's legacy I believe the city council should investigate possibilities towards acquiring the building."
Minister Kyne, along with Communications Minister, Richard Bruton, and Galway West TD, Hildegarde Naughton, visited the site last week, with Minister Kyne praising GIAF artistic director Paul Fahy, and CEO John Crumlish "for their vision in re-imagining the near derelict building as an arts space".
The building was originally a garage used by An Post for its van fleet and has remained empty for decades. The initial idea to use it as a gallery space was originally suggested to the Galway International Arts Festival by Independent city councillor Donal Lyons [pictured above].
However, a spokesperson for the Galway City Council told the Galway Advertiser that the local authority, "despite speculation, is not in any discussion with An Post towards acquiring the building".
Although Galway has a number of galleries, such as the Galway Arts Centre, The Kenny Gallery, Engage Studio gallery, and 126, these are part of private or multi-function buildings/businesses/organisations. There is no formal civic gallery for the city, specifically and solely dedicated to display the visual arts.
While the An Post site may not become the gallery of Minister Kyne's hopes, City Hall said it was "delighted to see the transformation GIAF has effected on the building" and that this "certainly gives pause for thought". The spokesperson said the Galway City Council had previously identified the need" for a dedicated gallery for the city.
The upshot of this is that the search for a suitable site goes on. Meanwhile it is understood that An Post is potentially interested in putting the site onto the market. This, however, has raised concerns that the site could be lost to public ownership.
People Before Profit Galway also welcomed the use of the An Post site as a gallery for the arts festival, but raised concerns that it could still end up being sold on the private market. "To allow this property full of potential in the heart of the city to fall into the hands of a private developer will be a travesty," said PBP's Joe Loughnane. "This is an ideal opportunity to establish a publicly-owned cultural space in our city."