THESIS ABSTRACT 2004
Ireland: The Land of Saints and Scholars... and Artists
In a country reputedly so beautiful and awe-inspiring, on an island synonymous with aesthetically rich and powerful visual imagery, and creative and expressive artistic traditions, why have Ireland’s visual arts practices been underdeveloped, under-funded and perceived as secondary to the strong literary, theatre and music traditions that dominate? This paper investigates the reasons behind why the visual arts in contemporary Ireland are in this position, with particular focus on the arts center as an exhibition space and the role of the Arts Council of Ireland in the development and funding of the visual arts.
Ireland’s political and social history, cultural practices, and Irish art history— a history dominated by the school of nationalist realism throughout the first half of the 20th century—have all been influential in designing the current position of Irish visual arts. At the beginning of the 20th century, in the wake of a newly established nation, state bodies in Ireland were primarily concerned with the development of artistic traditions which would afford the Irish people a culture and heritage they could identify with, embodied in symbols such as the shamrock, wolfhound and harp, symbols which encompass the Irish language and distinctly Irish literature, theatre and music Endorsed as the “Celtic Revival,” it was, perhaps, this movement to establish an Irish “brand” that essentially eclipsed the visual arts.
In contemporary Ireland, are these traditions still underlying? The arts centre as a contemporary institution seems to be the main resource for visual artists in Ireland, but very often as an exhibition space is neither practical nor suited to the exhibition of contemporary art because, among other factors, the arts center is multi-functionary. The buildings are rarely purpose-built and therefore the galleries are often merely wall spaces. In addition to this does the Arts Council of Ireland,with its limited financial resources and many responsibilities often overlook the visual arts as an important cultural and arts practice? With this question as a starting point, this paper is an exploration of the development, function, and public expectations of arts centers in Ireland, and the Arts Council of Ireland, pertaining to their collective role in the progression of a sustainable Irish visual arts tradition. It examines the Arts Council of Ireland’s role through its funding of these infrastructures and looks at current opportunities for emerging artists.
Gillian Power received her undergraduate degree at the University of Ireland, Limerick, and a Graduate Diploma in Arts Administration at the University of Ireland, Galway. She has worked in the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool and at Galway Arts Centre, Ireland and interned at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Arts Club of Chicago.
Thesis Advisor: Gregory Sholette Assistant Professor, Arts Administration
Thesis Reader: Helen Carey Director, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Irish College Paris, France
Second Reader: Maura Kennedy Literature Officer, Galway Arts Centre & Program Director, Cúirt International Festival of Literature