Happy new year! Weathering the storms…

7 January 2014

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Well, the recycling bins are overflowing, the tree disposal centres are looking a bit sad, but at least the storm clouds finally seem to be breaking… although perhaps not over Limerick, quite yet (oh dear…)

After a very quiet semester on the blogging front, I’ll be back with regular updates in the coming weeks, and of course, regular job postings and event announcements.

2013 was quite the rollercoaster for the arts & cultural community — we’ve had a nasty budget with bodies like Culture Ireland and National Cultural Institutions especially hard-hit; the spectacular collapse of Temple Bar Cultural Trust and the closure of the Belltable Arts Centre in Limerick (and worrying times for the Irish Architectural Archives too); campaigns highlighting the precarious position of visual artists and compensation and the need for cultural research and better policy-making processes; controversies over corporate arts sponsorships and the Arts Council Music Recording Scheme bursaries.

Amidst the gossip and gloom there have been many bright spots as well — a very successful run by Derry as City of Culture; Rough Magic and Opera Theatre Company’s fab win in the Sky Arts Ignition competition; booming times for Culture Night nationwide;The Gathering (despite its rocky start) now being hailed as a great success. In our own neck of the woods here at UCD, we launched the new Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy and are looking ahead to issue 2 very soon.

What’s in store for 2014? The fallout from the Limerick City of Culture debacle is set to continue (though a new CEO has just been announced) — and in many ways it serves as an apt distillation of the challenges ahead. The bungled initiative has thrown into painful (and public) relief what we already know: the dominant rhetoric of corporate ‘rebranding’ and clashing conceptions of what a ‘city of culture’ is actually meant to deliver; public ‘cultural management’ practices which betray no deep understanding of either term; the small, imbalanced budgets now assigned to major arts events with the expectation of high (usually non-arts) returns; and the shockingly poor control of taxpayer-funded initiatives by the government department meant to oversee them.

There’s still time for Limerick to get its act together — and the mass turnout at public meetings and high level of publicity generated over the past few days bodes well for Limerick CoC. This matters deeply to many people, in Limerick and nationwide. However the issues underlying CoC that have fuelled this crisis have been with us for some time – and they aren’t going away. I’m looking forward to lots of discussions and debates over the coming months over how we can improve relationships between cultural policy, art practice and public funding, across all of the artform sectors. One of the benefits of working in a university is the boundless energy and enthusiasm for change and opportunity in the arts which floods through our doors every year. And as we enter into a new year, I’m taking a page from their book: perhaps we all need to adopt Woody Guthrie’s final New Year’s resolution (from his list that’s been making the rounds): Wake Up and Fight.


Artsmanagement.ie round-up: 20 August 2013

20 August 2013

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Counting down two weeks until the new UCD term begins: autumn is upon us! Which also means the arts scene is warming up again…

The programme for Culture Night is launching today; the growth of this event is nothing short of astonishing; it’s the biggest night of the year for Dublin and many other towns who’ve adopted it. Unmissable.

The Dublin Fringe Festival also recently announced its line-up. As director Roise Goan’s swan song, it’s packed full of treats. So difficult to choose highlights, but I’ll be booking/attending Anu Productions’ Thirteen cycle (13 performances/events reflecting on the Dublin Lockout); Fit/Misfit (collaboration between Mexican and Irish dancers); Lippy by Dead Centre; for a bit of light relief, David O’Doherty and Maeve Higgins both have shows; and Brat Kids Carnival for my kiddies. For starters.

The centenary of the Dublin Lockout is receiving lots of attention at the moment – especially from Anu Productions (both at the Fringe and part of the brilliant, almost sold-out Tenement Experience) – but many other related events are listed at http://1913committee.ie. Some of the most interesting include Pallas Project’s A Letter to Lucy, a response to 1913 by a group of contemporary artists (Anthony Haughey, Deirdre O Mahony, Mark Curran, Deirdre Power, Jennie Guy, Brian Duggan) in a number of locations around Dublin (until 21 September). The Labour and Lockout exhibition at the Limerick City Gallery also looks fascinating (on until 1 October). Finally Temple Bar Gallery & Studios has issued an open call for workshop proposals for its Workers’ Cafe: from 10 October – 2 November, their exhibition space will transform into a participatory venue and cafe, hosting events and workshops connected to the subject of labour, economy and exchange.

We’re smack dab in the middle of Heritage Week – their listing of events is like a phone book! There’s something going on in every corner of the country — check in to your local museum or heritage centre to see what special programmes are on offer this week.

The most recent NCFA research colloquy in Kilkenny last week featured Dave O’Brien from City University London speaking on the evolution of evidence-based policy making in the UK, with a response by John O’Hagan (TCD, Economics). The session made for a lively debate on the pros/cons of evidence gathering methods and their use by decision-makers (some of the debate was captured via twitter – #ncfacolloquy). The next colloquy will take place in October: these are well worth attending if you’ve an interest in the arts sector, policy-making and the role of research.

Who else is worn out from all of the appeals to vote for projects that are part of the Arthur Guinness Project scheme? Their dire daily voting mechanism has been clogging up inboxes and feeds over the past few weeks, but Jim Carroll has a bigger bone to pick in his Irish Times blog. His critique of the scheme has attracted a huge number of comments: well worth a read for the range of arguments coming from all perspectives.

Temple Bar Gallery and Studios is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with a forthcoming book Generation – 30 years of creativity at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, which recognizes the important contribution it has made to Ireland’s visual arts community. Its upcoming exhibition False Memory Syndrome proposes a series of alternative histories for TBG&S, touching on institutional memory, archives and materiality.

Heads up: the Arts Council is looking for new Arts Advisers in Architecture; Circus, Street Arts & Spectacle; Film; Opera; Theatre; and Traditional Arts. Applications close on 26 September.

Lots of new listings on the jobs page, but of particular interest may be the facilitator roles for the Turner Prize 2013 in Derry/Londonderry as part of City of Culture. Derry’s been playing a blinder of late, with an estimated 430,000 turning out for the Fleadh last week. Following a tumultuous summer in Northern Ireland, an interesting article on The Detail blog explores why Derry and the CoC events may hold out hope for the continuation of the peace process.

In the category of you-couldn’t-make-it-up, last week the DUP’s Peter Robinson published a rambling open letter on the subject of the controversial re-development of the Maze prison and its proposed ‘Peace Centre’. The satirical website Loyalists Against Democracy were on fine form with a swift response.

Once again, Dublin City Council has announced plans to redevelop Dublin’s Victorian fruit market (located between Capel St and the Four Courts). We’ve heard this plan before over the years — there’s widespread agreement this is a fantastic idea, but with a proposed opening date of 2015, the proof will be in the pudding.

It’s been a bumper summer for Irish Architecture, and both the Irish Architecture Foundation and the Irish Georgian Society have moved into new digs: the former to Hatch Street near the NCH, the latter in the old Civic Museum on South William Street. In related news, Dublin Civic Trust is sponsoring a conference on the future of Dublin’s Georgian Squares (13 September), to be held appropriately in the ballroom of the former Assembly Rooms of the Rotunda Hospital on Parnell Square.

Finally, some great news in the world of open access: the Getty Museum in LA has joined the Rijksmuseum in The Netherlands as one of the world’s major museums now offering open access to a massive number of images of its collection, free of restriction. As the Rijksmuseum’s head of digital collections has remarked, “If they want to have a Vermeer on their toilet paper, I’d rather have a very high-quality image of Vermeer on toilet paper than a very bad reproduction.” Words to warm any art historian’s heart!


Weekly round-up: 25 May 2012

25 May 2012

Hans Josephsohn exhibition at Lismore Castle Arts

It’s been extraordinarily busy policy-wise in the arts the last few weeks — this update will be a long one —  I’ll do my best to provide a summary! (p.s. if I’ve gotten anything wrong here, please do write in & correct me! Or feel free to add your impressions/responses in the comments…)

The second meeting of the Visual Arts Workers’ Fourm (kindly hosted by the Glucksman Gallery, UCC) last Thursday 17 May proved a lively & interesting day. So much ground was covered, it’s impossible to do justice to it all — however I found most useful the presentations by Mary McCarthy (from the National Sculpture Factory) and Sarah Glennie (new director of IMMA) providing updates on the status of the Culture Ireland, National Campaign for the Arts and the amalgamations planned for the national cultural institutions. Here’s a breakdown of some of what was discussed (supplemented by a few recent developments):

  • Culture Ireland: The expiration of Eugene Downes’ contract as Director is coinciding with a planned review of Culture Ireland; many in the audience voiced their support for the impact of CI’s contribution to the promotion of Irish culture, and praised Eugene’s contributions in particular. As yet there seems to be little public information on what exactly this review process will entail and when it will take place, with Mary reiterating the importance of remaining vigilant as to developments.
  • National Campaign for the Arts: conversations around advocacy, developing stronger links with policymakers and politicians, and better articulating a collective vision for the purpose and importance of the arts were strong themes recurring throughout the day. Differences between VAI and VAWF were clarified (the former primarily devoted to the support of individual artists, the latter an as-yet loose grouping of the many organisations and individuals broadly included under the ‘visual arts’ banner, to include arts orgs, artists, curators, educators, etc.). Mary provided details of the NCFA’s working process and current status, urging folks to become involved (a very small number of people are making a large difference here), and reiterating the very significant impact its campaigns and outreach efforts have had to date. No consensus emerged out of the day as to how collectively the visual arts community might better organise — in more casual conversations with attendees I found views varied widely as to whether more formal organisation was needed, or whether a more organic approach was appropriate. I think most were in agreement, however, that meetings such as VAWF provided a valuable opportunity for information sharing, networking and getting a sense of the many diverse views and positions active in the visual arts community.
  • National Cultural Institution amalgamation plans: Sarah spent a good deal of time discussing this, stressing that the proposals now on the table differ substantially in nature from those mooted in 2008, which garnered very strong opposition in the sector (voiced during a consultation held in IMMA)– plans that were later shelved. Very little has been made public about this process, so many in the audience were surprised to hear of the speed with which the re-vamped amalgamation plans are progressing — according to Glennie the decision to amalgamate in some form has been made by the Dept. of Public Expenditure and Reform, and is irreversible, with the window for working out the finer details (before a final decision by Cabinet) only about 6 weeks. The word since then is that the directors are collectively engaged in protecting the autonomy of each institution (especially in terms of curatorship and direction) to the greatest extent possible.There were very strong feelings in the audience about the importance of protecting the cultural institutions in a time of slash-and-burn approaches by civil servants with little knowledge of how these organisations actually function, and their already skeletal infrastructure. All of this has been given added momentum in the past few days with Diarmuid Ferriter’s announcement (more here too) he would be resigning from the board of the National Library in protest over the government’s ‘offensive and disingenuous double-speak’ around the cultural institutions (including but not limited to the amalgamation plans — which also have proposed merging the NLI, National Archives and the Manuscripts Commission). The amalgamation plans were further criticised yesterday by Senator Fiach Mac Conghail in the Senate session (here’s the full text of what was said). I believe all of this is extremely useful in highlighting how crucial these decisions are, and what their long-ranging impact will be on cultural institutions many of us take for granted. A lack of transparency over the terms of the proposals is worrying, and with such a short amount of time remaining to voice views on the subject, I hope developments will continue to be publicized widely (and I’ll try my best to do the same!)

Quite a number of folks approached me at VAWF to speak with me after I raised the issue of employment patterns (and specifically unpaid internships) in the arts… of further interest may be a recent report just published in the UK – Intern Culture – that has brought together a whole host of research and information on the current state of UK internships in the visual arts. It’s extremely useful and insightful, and well worth a read — I suspect we will soon reach a stage where more formalised inquiries and guidelines will have to be addressed here in Ireland as well.

Slightly buried in the story on the HEA funding crisis (which made the rounds in print and radio yesterday) was mention of ‘a review of third level creative arts and media courses in Dublin, including those at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin Institute of Technology and Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.’ I’ve heard some talk of this, with suggestions there may be plans afoot to rationalize/reduce programmes offered owing to ‘duplication’, but as of yet have heard nothing more concrete. One to keep an eye on…

Did you catch the conclusion of RTE’s ‘Masterpiece: Ireland’s Favourite Painting‘ last night? Not surprisingly, dorm room favourite ‘The Meeting on the Turret Stairs’ by Frederic William Burton at the NGI edged out the competition (with 22% of the vote, followed by the Caravaggio, Leech and Harry Clarke). No small irony that the winner is actually one of Ireland’s least seen paintings (as it’s a watercolour and only on very limited public display). Lots of grumbling amidst art historians about criteria of selection, omission of manuscript painting (and anything non-western), but it’s all been in good fun I think — as host Mike Murphy has pointed out the late night scheduling of the programme by RTE was shameful, but it was great to hear folks debating the merits of the nominated works, and the galleries have reported a noticeable increase in visitor numbers on the back of the programme.

Some very nice coverage (by Aidan Dunne in the IT, and another illustrated review on the Royal Academy site) of the Hans Josephsohn exhibition at Lismore Castle Arts, the opening of which I also attended — it’s a wonderful and eye opening show of an extremely accomplished (if little known) 92 year old Swiss sculptor, and shows off the tremendous development and ambition of this small gallery in the years since its opening.

Music Network has launched details of its nationwide love:live music programme coming up on 21 June — there will be a huge range of live (free) music events of all genres happening across the country, and they are still taking listings for groups wishing to participate in this fab day & looking to link in with their network. They also recently announced the appointment of their new director, Sharon Rollston, so it’s all go in the Carriage House these days!

The RHA’s annual exhibition and sale opens in a few short days — red sticker dots at the ready!

All this sunshine is going to our heads… but a groovy event happening in Dublin this weekend is Block T’s ‘Link Culturefest’ in Smithfield and the surrounding areas: a whole host of exhibitions, screenings, performances, and open houses of cultural organisations — a great way to herald the start of our ‘proper’ summer!

EVA International Biennial of Art also opened in Limerick last week, curated by Annie Fletcher.

The Bealtaine Festival (‘Celebrating Creativity as we Age’) is drawing to a close over the next few days, but there’s still time to catch a few remaining events, or have a look at the presentations made at their conference ‘Creating a New Old’ that were filmed & are available on their website.

Museum peeps: tomorrow (26 May) is the Irish Museum Association’s annual field trip, this year visiting Waterford… a call for submissions is also open for the annual ‘Blow Your Own Trumpet‘ day on 13 July, where museum education programmes and initiatives from across the country are highlighted — deadline is today!

IMMA’s new exhibitions open at Earslfort Terrace/NCH is next Weds (May 30th) — more details on the launch here.

A CFP has been issued for a local symposium entitled ‘Art Without Borders: Cultural Influence and and Exchange in Irish Art History‘, coordinated by a number of postgraduate students from TCD.

Applications for organisations to be involved in this year’s Culture Night are closing on May 31st! Time to get your skates on.

Galway Arts Festival (16-29 July) has launched its programme — impending birth will prevent me from attending this year, but if I were going, I’d be all over the Marina Abramovic exhibition, Druid Murphy cycle, and the West Cork Ukelele Orchestra.

UCC is offering 4-year funded doctoral studentships in digital arts & humanities — tasty — closing deadline is 31 May.

Hotel deals will soon end for Theatre Forum’s all-Ireland annual conference in Belfast on 14-15 June — this is going to be a big one, so get thee to the registrations page.

I was delighted to hear one of our programme alums Monika Sapielak (director of the Centre for Creative Practices) won an Arthur Guinness Fund award for Social Entrepreneurs! Huge congrats!!

Finally… one of the (recurring) cultural events of our time airs tomorrow — I am, of course, talking about the Eurovision Song Contest Final in Azerbaijan. Who will prevail? The Russian grannies? The Jed and their unexpectedly horizontal hair? Don’t pretend you won’t be watching.


Weekly update: 10 October 2011

10 October 2011

The new WorldIrish.com site, one of the diaspora initiatives launched last week

Feedback on the arts/culture dimension of the recent Global Irish Economic Forum at Dublin Castle has been buzzing since  Saturday, with a subsequent article in the IT on corporate sponsorship & the arts (also predated last week by an article on foreign bank subsidizing of recent arts activity). I admit to some scepticism regarding the notion of a mass ‘homecoming’ event (will there be cheerleaders & tailgates?), but it was heartening to see the cultural agenda as a central part of the discussions. (on a side note, it’s a pity that the live feed of the event hasn’t been archived!!)

More than 350 people have signed the petition launched by IVARO to urge full implementation of the Artists’ Resale Right (as it currently can be availed of by living artists, the petition seeks for the resale rights to extend to deceased artists whose work is still in copyright, thus bringing Ireland in line with EU conventions). Consider clicking through the link & adding your name in support??

To coincide with Dublin Contemporary, Noone Casey are offering a mentorship award worth €10k of sponsorship, financial & strategic planning advice to an emerging arts collective, organisation, etc. (the brief is pretty open!) Deadline is 12th of October.

The Arts Council has recently announced its list of new artform advisers — the folks tasked with viewing & visiting shows/exhibitions/etc. across the country, and assisting with funding applications and grantmaking decisions.

Calling all arts marketers: Una Carmody, director of the Arts Audiences project, is seeking feedback from marketers with respect to the Target Group Index Report (to be released this month)… quite a lot of relevant information and data about arts participation is contained in this report, and Una & co are taking requests for report analysis.

We’ve entered the final week of the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival… My own viewings have been mixed, from the great (Rian) to the meh (Peer Gynt), but bookings have been very solid and it’s been difficult to source tickets for many shows. The box office has been releasing 10 euro rush tickets the same day as some performances, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their twitter feed or facebook page to snag a deal! (a few interesting and provocative write-ups in the Guardian and Saturday Irish Times, as well)

The annual architectural bonanza known as Open House Dublin began last weekend; if the queues at sites in our neighborhood were representative at all, it’s been a busy launch! So many great programmes and events along with the architectural tours, it’s a must-see.

One helluva white elephant: following accusations of mismanagement the €44 million Niemeyer arts centre in Spain is set to close after opening only 6 months ago. One of our current PhD students in the department is likewise investigating the effects of ‘starchitecture’ in the Rioja region; it would seem the ‘Bilbao effect’ is not all it’s been cracked up to be…

The UK think-tank Demos have recently released a report into the creative industries sector entitled ‘Risky Business‘, suggesting that creative business have proven to be lower-risk than non-creative/cultural ventures, and calling for greater levels of government attention to fostering their growth.

Following its enormously successful application call for its BA in Acting in 2011, the new Lir (Nat Academy for the Performing Arts) has announced it’s accepting applications for its BA In Acting 2012 / Diploma in Stage Management and Technical Theatre 2012.

We knew it was coming, but, alas, IMMA will be closing its main building for refurbishment on 1 November until December 2012. What a buzzkill for all the enthusiasm generated by Dub Contemp :( :(

Booking has opened for the International Puppet Festival in the south county Dublin & Wicklow area… a series of free street events will also be taking place in Temple Bar, Bray and Dun Laoghaire on the 23rd of October– it looks like a great programme!

…and if you live in South Dublin, take a moment to complete a public survey on usage of its library systems.

It’s still a few weeks away (9 November), but consider booking in for the Irish Museum Association’s annual lecture — this year featuring Dr Penelope Curtis, Director of the Tate Britain — the tickets generally get snapped up!


Weekly round-up: 11 March 2011

11 March 2011

There was an election, don’t ya know:

  • Fine Gael swept the boards in a resounding victory (although the NY Times couldn’t quite figure out the gender of poor new Taoiseach Enda Kenny) — but pertinent to we arts folks was the announcement of the new Cabinet: Jimmy Deenihan (author of Fine Gael’s pre-election arts policy) was duly named Minister of the re-formatted Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs. This announcement confirmed election promises to keep the arts at the Cabinet table, but the reconfiguration of the various portfolios was more than a little perplexing (Leo Varadkar was named Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport). Is this new nomenclature a signal that ‘culture’ will be reinterpreted more narrowly as ‘arts’? What are the consequences of losing the economic clout of tourism (and to a lesser degree sport) and becoming a warmer, fuzzier, and possibly easily sidelined department? Given that the budget of the Heritage Council was recently slashed 47% (following a reduction of 30% last year), this new configuration is worryingly low on punching power.
  • The National Campaign for the Arts provided a handy link to the two arts/culture-related pages of the new Fine Gael/Labour programme for government (click here for pdf): main points are the expansion of Culture Night to 2 nights/year [ok, achievable enough], developing 1916 centenary plan for 2016 [historians here at UCD are already rubbing their hands with glee], promoting geneaological tourism & stimulating diaspora tourism [hmm, is this really a growth area? The digitisation of census records has already had a negative impact on geneaological tourism; this aim feels very 1997], getting Local Authorities to combine arts officers’ roles [rather than providing funding for new/vacated positions], and using empty NAMA buildings for ‘local facilities for arts and culture’ [one thing we’re certainly NOT short of in this country is arts facilities, Mr Minister!]. Perhaps most significant was the statement that ‘Responsibility for policy-making will revert to the Department, while agencies will be accountable for implementing policy, assessing outcomes and value for money’ — surely the Department has had little to do with actual direct cultural policy-making in recent years, asserting its interests instead through funding streams and the occasional direct cultural initiative. I’m most interested to see how this might play out in practice.
  • Music Network launched its plans for Love:Live Music National Music Day on April 8th. They’re soliciting new events to be added to the event listings on the site, and promoting a great range of offerings — more will definitely follow on this come April!
  • Most recent Dublin Contemporary news– Art in America featured a small piece on the troubled DC, claiming dismissed curator Thompson’s departure was due to a failure ‘to submit satisfactory plans’. An odd quote from the new curator Christian Viveros-Fauné: ‘”Now is not a good time for art that rubs people the wrong way,” the curator says, but he and Castro, who have collaborated previously, want to be thoughtfully provocative, or, thoughtfully provocative without being aggressive or offensive.’ Hm, this hardly sounds like a recipe for a truly ‘provocative’ programme? Still, there is much goodwill behind the initiative — even if an article in last week’s Sunday Times (no online free version, alas!) pointed out that the very established Lyon Biennale (curated this year by Victoria Noorthorn) begins about a week after the DC and has the exact same title. D’oh!
  • A piece in the Irish Times on Wednesday reported from the EU Culture in Motion conference in Brussels, noting the low uptake of EU Culture funding by Irish organisations (a subject that’s forming the thesis of one of our current MA students). Difficulties forming the partnerships required by EU funding schemes were highlighted, but the picture is definitely more complex than that (on a side note of weirdness, the article’s author seemed not to know who Jordi Savall is! )
  • There was a great article on Saturday in the IT profiling the lovely Catherine Morris, newly appointed ‘cultural coordinator’ at Trinity. Her exhibition at the National Library on Alice Milligan is fab, and demonstrates the wonderful investments made by the NLI in technology & access.
  • One of the most interesting presentations from last week’s Irish Museums Association conference was a virtual walk-through of the new museum in Glasnevin cemetery, which has recently won a major international design award for its stunning building and exhibition. The IMA is leading a tour of the museum tomorrow for its members, but in any case this new museum looks well worth a visit.
  • An event on March 14th co-sponsored by UCD and Gradcam (and featuring both Pat Cooke and Hugh Campbell from UCD as speakers) is entitled ‘Redrawing Dublin‘: ‘a special public seminar in response to the issues, ideas and challenges raised by Paul Kearns and Motti Ruimy’s recent interdisciplinary cultural project, REDRAWING DUBLIN (Gandon Editions, 2010). (…) This seminar offers an interactive opportunity to consider Kearns and Ruimy’s book project within the broader context of debates about urbanism, city cultures and Dublin’s future potential as a vibrant and dynamic metropolitan space.’

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