Galway artist criticises council decision to abolish public arts officer post

The abolition of the post of Galway City Public Arts Officer has led local artist Aideen Barry to call on artists and arts organisations in the city and county to “challenge” City Hall on the issue.

Ms Barry’s views are expressed in an open letter, posted online in which she says she is concerned by the loss of the post and feels the issue “is going to become a major concern for Galway into the future”.

Megs Morley was appointed Galway City Council Public Arts officer in 2007, however her contract has not been renewed and the post has currently lapsed.

“The decision not to renew her contract and in a sense remove the role entirely has pushed Galway’s arts development back,” wrote Ms Barry, “and has possibly stunted the growth in arts commissioning and expansion quite significantly.”

Ms Barry also feels that the decision to remove the role of the Public Arts Officer “comes at quite a significant time”.

“The drafting of the city’s 2010 Arts Policy, recently commissioned by Sarah Searson, is due to be released by the office and it is my fear this policy will show Galway City Council’s shortcomings and institutional amnesia created by the elimination of the role of Public Arts Officer,” she alleged.

The artist is now calling on other artists and arts organisations across Galway to speak out on the issue and “consider making a challenge to Galway City Council” on the matter.

In response City Hall said the contract for Public Arts Officer was a temporary contract and that, owing to the financial situation, Department of Environment directives, and reductions in funding, all temporary contracts, across the Galway City Council have not been renewed. The duties of the Public Arts Officer will now be taken over by the City Arts Officer, James Harrold

“It is a loss to us not to have someone of the calibre of Megs Morley as she was a huge addition to the arts office and City Hall,” said a council spokesperson, “but hopefully in the future the current constraints will be lifted and we can reinstate the post.”

City Hall also questioned Ms Barry’s allegation of “institutional amnesia”.

“We are very aware of the great work that was done by Megs Morley and City Hall has no intention of forgetting about public art and we are determined to do the best we can in difficult circumstances.”


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