AS 2015 draws to a close, the Galway Arts Centre is gearing up for another year of exhibitions, education programmes, and events, with the current exhibition, Unbounded, running until January 16, featuring sculptural work by Ruth E Lyons and Angela Fulcher.
Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of the visual art programme in GAC, something that was seen very clearly in the recent co-production with Baboró International Arts Festival for Children and Roscommon Arts Centre. More than 1,000 hildren, their teachers, and parents crossed the threshold of No 47 Dominick Street, to engage with Eamon O’Kane’s History of Play exhibition. The cliché of the deathly quiet and serious art gallery was well and truly smashed during History of Play, as audience members were invited to play, invent ,and enjoy the kindergarten-inspired artworks. The exhibition was selected initially for its remarkable similarity to a project in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, in 1968, where artist and activist Palle Nielsen turned the gallery into a giant play space filled with jungle gyms, turn-tables, climbing ropes, and a dangerous amount of flammable foam rubber.
At the centre of GAC’s visual art programme is the gallery in Dominick Street, covering two floors of the Georgian townhouse. 2016 will see exhibitions of new work from a diverse range of artists including Margaret O’Brien, Ramon Kassam, and site-specific artist Joanna Kidney; who will be creating a drawing installation in the entire space in the weeks leading up to her exhibition opening.
Galway Arts Centre is also excited to work in a group exhibition of Finnish artists, curated by Anna McGovern, a recent graduate of the MA in arts policy and practice in the Huston School of Film & Digital Media. GAC is also working with members of KCAT, a supported studio in Callan, Kilkenny. KCAT is known worldwide for supporting artists with disabilities and for its collaborative, integrated, approach of artists of all abilities working together. KCAT, along with its sister organisation, Equinox Theatre, is supported by Camphill Communities. Camphill Communities of Ireland is part of an international charitable trust working with people with intellectual disabilities and other kinds of special needs. The first group exhibition of 2016 will open on January 22 and feature artists Niamh O’Doherty, Laura Smith, and Victoria J Dean. Each artist addresses time, nature, and humanity's attempts at understanding both.
With warmer weather brings the festivals for whiich Galway is so famous. Galway Arts centre will be working with Cúirt, Baboró, Galway International Arts Festival and, to close the year, Tulca Festival of Visual Art, which has just enjoyed another successful festival in November.
Galway Arts Centre is not only continuing Burning Bright, its project with older people in care units in the city and county, but has expanded it to include music. Lizzie Lynott has been working with Maryfield Nursing Home in Athenry on a project entitled Music + Memory. Working with people living with Alzheimer's and their families, Lynott compiles playlists for people to engage with. The playlists often consist of songs from the person’s youth right up to their grandchildren’s favourite songs. The project, supported by The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland and Alzheimer’s West is a way for families living with Alzheimer's to engage with each other and assists in affirming identity for the person with Alzheimer's. As a result of its work in Burning Bright, Galway Arts Centre has also been invited to join the Azure Network, which supports and facilitates dementia friendly art galleries and events specific to people living with dementia. GAC will roll out its dementia friendly gallery visits in 2016.
GAC has been working with Red Bird Youth Collective since 2011. As 2015 closes, the group of 16 – 23-years-old are finishing two projects. Working with artist Siobhán McGibbon and participants from Platform 9 3/4, Merlin Park Hospital, Red Bird are completing a ‘zine as a follow up to their 2015 exhibition The Condition of Others, which explored perceptions of identity for people living with illness. The project, funded by the National Youth Council of Ireland, has given Red Bird the opportunity to collaborate with their peers and work in poetry and prose also. The ‘zine will launch on January 22 2016.
Red Bird’s next exhibition will be in March. Their largest project to date, ‘Agitating Space’ will be unveiled and will also be accompanied by a seminar explorting themes raised during the project. Red Bird have been working with Galway based artists Roisin Coyle and Ruby Wallis as well as software programmer Gerald Glynn on a project that questions the future of Galway city and how people can work collectively and from a grass-roots level to create a sustainable city that can cope with climate change and increases in population.
Red Bird have been collaborating with young people from Vila Prudente, a favela in Sao Paulo, Brazil. They have also been working with PhD researcher and co-Chair of 126 artist led gallery, Lucy Elvis. In the New Year they will do a workshop with Professor Emeritus Tom Moylan from the School of Architecture, University of Limerick. Usually reserved for fifth year college students, the workshop will address utopian methods in social architectural design and politics. This project is supported in the main by the Arts Council’s Engaging with Architecture fund and has also been awarded Galway City Council 2016 commemoration funding.
Maeve Mulrennan is head of visual art at the Galway Arts Centre.