The City Arts Centre, Dublin, is in the process of redefining itself. It has, for example, recently sold its premises  –  see report here. Also part of the process are various seminars being held at the CAC. Belinda Daw attended one such, and reports here.

The Civil Arts Inquiry, in association with the Sculptors’ Society of Ireland, held its seminar Outside the box – art and public domain on Wednesday 9 July in the City Arts Centre, Dublin. The seminar was the first of three sessions which intend to raise the ongoing concerns and issues in Irish art.

This session centred on artists and arts workers and their relationships with the public or specific communities. What happens when art moves away from the ‘white box’ and into a more public and accessible arena. Two positions were identified  –  artists working within the community to produce works of art versus artists producing work that is viewed in a public space.

Jon Bewley of Locus+ in Newcastle discussed the emergence of the organisation and its curatorial philosophy as well as projects which had been successful in engaging the community, creating either a sense of involvement or subsequent dialogue. He emphasised the importance of the relationships formed in the process and that these were integral to the outcome of the project.

The first panel discussion included Pauline Hadaway from Belfast Exposed as Chair, Mary McCarthy from the European Capital of Culture (and former Director of the National Sculpture Factory, Cork), Dont Rhine, a sound artist and member of Ultra Red, and Ailbhe Murphy, artist and liaison for the Ballymun Regeneration Percent for Art Scheme. Conversation revolved  around programmers and practitioners, about the relationships formed with communities, developing new and appropriate language, and the importance of resources, particularly those of time and development. Public housing frequently entered the equation and was seen as potent ground for artists working with communities.

The second panel session involved  Kevin Atherton of the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, as Chair, Richard West of Source Magazine and Factotum, Brian Duggan and Mark Cullen of Pallas Studios, Rita Fagan of St Michael’s Family Resource Centre and Philip Napier of NCAD. The group discussed their organisations and their work within the public realm, their roles and thoughts on process versus end product.

The seminar aired some of the key elements involved  in creating art for and with the public, and in presenting work in a public context. It produced debate about what is success and what is the artists’ role  –  sometimes seeming like social worker and facilitator. The Civil Arts Inquiry will use the points raised in discussion to chart how art in Ireland is changing.

Belinda Daw

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