Weekly round-up: 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.’