Next year will be the year of bringing the arts to schools — that is the intention of Westmeath’s county arts officer Miriam Mulrennan who gave an update on progress in the county’s arts office for this year.
Three years into the current arts plan, she said the arts are very active in Westmeath but there is considerable work to be done with young people across the county in conjunction with libraries and schools.
She is liaising with AIT to see how arts and culture will fit into the college’s new strategic plan. However, she said artists working in dance, film, and visual arts do not feel part of an artistic community in the county and feel they don’t have peer support.
“We’re trying to find ways to have people not feel they’re working in an isolated way,” she said.
Ms Mulrennan also said there’s a need for an information session with arts practitioners around the county who are losing out on vital arts funding because of simple issues arising in their applications.
This is something the arts office can help them with, she said.
A lot of grants were late this year, she said, indicating her intention to create and adhere to a strict timetable in 2014. “We’ll get them out as quickly as possible,” she promised.
She pointed to film as the area of greatest possible potential development.
There are live opportunities in film and television, she said, name-checking TV programmes like Game of Thrones.
Film companies come to Ireland for tax breaks but can’t find the large warehouse spaces they need long term, such as are available at Ardmore in Wicklow.
“The benefits would be extraordinary,” she said, adding that she’s talking to the Film Board about potential spaces.
“We have no idea how good this can be. The benefit to the local economy is huge, particularly if a TV series is involved. A film is done in 10 weeks, TV is there for years,” she said.
She also pointed for the need for greater support for the Music Generation Programme, a project which Offaly and Westmeath won over other areas in the country.
“We can’t allow this to falter,” she said.
Cllr Mick Dollard, who is chair of the Housing, Arts and Culture SPC said he wants the council and arts officer to sit down in 2014 to find a venue for visual arts in the county.
Bob Morrisson, who praised the Luan Gallery in Athlone, saying the atrium in County Building, Mullingar is working for some but the county town needs “high end stuff to encourage people to raise their game”.
Ms Mulrennan said the atrium is an excellent venue for emerging artists and community groups, and is booked until the autumn.
“We need a home for the visual arts,” insisted Cllr Dollard.