Laois Arthouse anniversary

Jock Nichol

Over sixty artists, associated in various ways with the Laois Arthouse, each provided a piece of work for their ten-year-anniversary exhibition, ‘In Trust. In Gratitude. In Hope’. Curator Monica Flynn invited the artists to respond to Pat Boran’s poem The Window Seat, a meditation on life during the pandemic.

The invitation prompted thoughtful responses, including many pieces in seamless accord with an artist’s characteristic work – a polite way to respond to a brief and often the best way. Sculptors found means of tactfully or conspicuously extending the two given dimensions (30cm square) into three. Equally, those working with photography and film were able to accommodate their media. Overall, a significant proportion of the works are exceptionally impressive, regardless of context.

Under the guidance of Laois Arts Officer Muireann Ní​ Chonaill, Laois Arthouse has, from the beginning, offered a dynamic approach to arts involvement. Rather than being simply or primarily a venue for the display of visiting, pre-packaged exhibitions, it has opted for a more rounded, complex model of engagement with the immediate and wider community. It has, for one thing, fostered the development of a local artists’ group, the Laois Arthouse Collective.

Laois Arthouse has opted for a more rounded, complex model of engagement

The Laois Arthouse has emphasised the work of the arts, incorporating studios and other work – and living – spaces from the start. Its residency and exhibition programme has reflected a generative rather than consumerist emphasis (and, incidentally, elicited exceptional generosity from many artist participants), with inventive and productive residencies by Vera McEvoy, Nick Miller, Mary Burke and Jock Nichol, amongst others.

Among current priorities is the provision of more studio space. Here’s hoping that happens in the still uncertain climate.

Aidan Dunne

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