Demand rises for An Post site to become cultural hub for city

Theatre57 and Fianna Fáil lend support to growing view

Australian artist, Sam Jinks with one of his pieces for the In The Flesh exhibition, which is running in the temporary new gallery space on the site of the GPO, just off William Street. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Australian artist, Sam Jinks with one of his pieces for the In The Flesh exhibition, which is running in the temporary new gallery space on the site of the GPO, just off William Street. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

THE NUMBER of cultural political voices calling for the vacant space at the rear of the An Post building - currently housing the arts festival flagship exhibition In The Flesh - to become a cultural hub for Galway city, has increased.

Galway Theatre collective, Theatre57, and Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Arts, Culture, and Heritage, Niamh Smyth TD, have become the latest voices in a growing call for the space to become a more permanent arts/cultural site.

The space, located at the rear of the GPO building on Eglinton Street, and which is accessed off William Street, past the Premoli shoe shop, was originally a garage used by An Post for its van fleet and has remained empty for decades. The idea to use it as a gallery space was originally suggested to the Galway International Arts Festival by Independent city councillor Donal Lyons.

Theatre57, a collective of independent theatre artists in Galway city and county, including Little John Nee, Fregoli’s Maria Tivnan, Aindrias DeStaic, Sarah O’Toole, and Moonfish’s Mairéad Ní Chroinín, has called for the site to be acquired for use as a dedicated cultural hub for the city.

"The arts festival has highlighted, yet again, what a municipal gallery would mean to the city," said Theatre57 chair Róisín Stack. "We would add that a designated rehearsal space, which exists in Cork, Limerick and Dublin, but not here in Galway, would greatly enrich the city’s cultural offering."

Minister Seán Kyne called on the city council to investigate purchasing the site, noting the 'clear lack of contemporary visual arts, performing arts, and children's arts space in the city'

Ms Stack said the space could be used for exhibitions, performances, rehearsals, and as a space in which artists could create work. "We envisage a programmed space with on-going training and initiatives for artists, as part of a cultural hub involving other local arts organisations," she said. "The building could be the perfect space. Now would be the perfect time to invest in Galway’s cultural legacy."

FF arts spokesperson, Niamh Smyth, described In The Flesh by Australian sculptor Sam Jinks, and the An Post site as "a remarkable exhibition in a remarkable setting", and she called for the space to become "a permanent home for the arts in Galway city".

She has called on the Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht to engage with the GIAF and An Post officials "to explore the possibility". She has also called on Communications Minister, Richard Bruton, and Culture Minister, Josepha Madigan, to examine the "options which may see this venue play an integral role during Galway 2020 and in the following years".

These calls echo those of GIAF artistic director Paul Fahy, who voiced support for the site to be transformed into a cultural hub; and Aire don Ghaeilge, don Ghaeltacht agus do na hOileáin, Seán Kyne, who last week called on the Galway City Council to investigate purchasing the site, noting the "clear lack of contemporary visual arts, performing arts, and children's arts space in the city".

In response, City Hall told the Galway Advertiser that it had previously identified the need" for a dedicated gallery for the city, but that "despite speculation, is not in any discussion with An Post towards acquiring the building".

It is understood that An Post is interested in putting the site onto the market, and for full market value. As a result, it is unlikely to come into public ownership, despite the recent calls.

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