Galway Arts Centre – A year in review at No 47

THE 2012 visual arts programme for Galway Arts Centre proved successful in 2012, running a selection of critically acclaimed exhibitions showcasing emerging, mid-career and prolific artists, working in a variety of mediums.

The centre, located on Dominick Street, also held numerous fundraisers, talks and an education programme for children, young people, and older people in the city and county.

Early spring saw Dublin based artist Sonia Shiel’s sculptural exhibition The Man with the Fabulous Tail. The installations were composed of individual paintings and animated sculptures that shared overarching narratives and the central materiality of paint. Shiel’s work pitches humanity’s mighty and small aspirations for a better world against their odds.

Each year the centre takes part in the Bealtaine, a national festival celebrating creativity in older age. GAC’s contribution was Burning Bright, where a number of practising artists facilitate art classes in nursing units, respite centres, and day centres throughout the city and county. Through workshops and dialogue, the participants create art work exhibited in GAC each May.

The second major exhibition for the GAC calendar was Eye Of The Storm by Irish artist Siobhan McDonald. Eye of The Storm featured a multi-disciplined set of investigations and findings exploring the idea of ‘studying nature.’

McDonald employed geology to conceive an understanding of time and our relationship to a constantly evolving environment, juxtaposing new artworks in poetic relation with historical and geological artefacts. The exhibition was inspired by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, which the artist has observed since 2010. Eyjafjallajokull features in a number of her paintings, projections, sound works, and found objects.

In July GAC worked with Galway Arts Festival to present Subject To Ongoing Change by The Performance Collective. The group - Michelle Browne, Alex Conway, Pauline Cummins, Frances Mezzetti and Dominic Thorpe - worked with the gallery to deliver 14 days of live improvised performance art.

Subject To Ongoing Change explored live improvisation and collaboration over time and in the presence of an audience. Each day the group performed for four hours, allowing the audience to experience the work at their own pace, and to come and go throughout the duration. The artists also performed from dusk until dawn on Sunday July 22. The events attracted large numbers including repeat visitors throughout the festival.

In August there was retrospective of Galway based painter Sharon O’Malley entitled Ancient Resonance. More than 50 paintings, spanning 25 years of her career, were displayed, showing her unique way of fusing ancient mythological roots to transform them into modern allegories. Many of the works were on loan from various public and private collections.

In September came Impressions 2012, Ireland’s longest running open submission fine art printmaking exhibition. This year’s Impressions had more than 300 applicants and produced an exhibition of 100 prints, including 3D prints. There was a strong emphasis on showcasing emerging artists and the overall winner of Impressions was Suzannah O’Reilly.

In collaboration with the Baboró International Arts Festival for Children and Abalta Special School, the centre produced SYNC, a multi sensory exhibition aimed specifically at children and young people with autism. The exhibition proved to be a big hit and was a calm and engaging environment for children and their families, as well as for visiting schools.

This year’s TULCA Festival of Visual Arts took place in many venues around the city, including Galway Arts Centre’s gallery and Nun’s Island Theatre. Derry-based curator Greg McCartney developed the theme (and festival title ), What Became of the People We Used to Be? and showcased emerging and mid-career Galway based artists alongside international artists, many of whom came to Galway to install and give talks on their work.

This year saw the introduction of an education programme for young people and also several guided tours led by NUI Galway students as part of TULCA’s partnership with the university. Despite a cut in funding, TULCA enjoyed larger audiences in 2012, its 10th year of operations. TULCA also commissioned a public art project on behalf of the Galway County Council in Leitir Mealain.

The centre’s final exhibition, Diabolic Loop, by Irish artist Sarah Browne, opened on December 7. Part of the Project Arts Centre on tour initiative, Diabolic Loop presents two bodies of work - Second Burial At Le Blanc and Cognitive Radio. The exhibition continues until January 28.

This year also saw an increase in education and outreach activity in Galway Arts Centre. GAC’s youth collective, Red Bird, which received Youth Ensemble Scheme and Engaging with Architecture awards from the Arts Council.

This year also saw Red Bird complete its first project as a group, working with Galway artist Louise Manifold. GAC also worked with St Paul’s Secondary School in Oughterard, Oughterard Family Resource Centre and Scottish born, Galway based artist, Marielle MacLeman on an artists-in-schools programme where Transition Year students worked with pattern, colour, and shape to investigate space.

The centre also returned to Gort Family Resource Centre for a second time to work with Rotterdam-based artist Ann Maria Healy and a group of women from Gort on a storytelling project entitled Performing Life, which was funded by the VEC and Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts in social and community contexts.

Coming next year

In 2013 Red Bird will work with architect and artist Blaithin Quinn on an architectural project entitled Shaping Space, which will investigate the potential for space in Galway’s West End. The group is currently in post-production with its science fiction film Belong, which will premiere in Nun’s Island in March 2013. The group will also curate a group exhibition of professional artists’ work in GAC in May 2013.

Also to look forward to next year is an exhibition from Áine Phillips, focusing on collaboration. GAC is working with NUI Galway Arts Office and Múscailt on a seminar on collaboration for February, which will close with a group exhibition entitled Contemporary Irish: Neither Here Nor There. The exhibition will be curated by Berlin-based Irish artists Jane Hughes and Enda O’Donoghue and will feature work by Irish artists currently living abroad in order to sustain their practice.

GAC’s visual arts department is also collaborating with Cúirt International Festival of Literature on an Education programme as part of the 2013 festival.

For further information on Galway Arts Centre see To apply to join Red Bird email [email protected] (Applicants must be between 15 and 23 ). The winter opening hours for the centre are 10am to 5.30pm (Mondays to Fridays ) and 10am to 2pm (Saturdays ).


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