Galway’s role in creating the Irish renaissance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is well documented. Edward Martyn, WB Yeats, JM Synge and George Moore, under the auspices of Lady Gregory, met in Coole Park on the outskirts of this city to forge a path for a cultural revival that brought about huge changes in framing our national identity. The visual arts were at the forefront of that vision. Artists have responded since then, from Jack Yeats to Seán Keating, Lilian Davidson, Arthur Armstrong, Elizabeth Rivers and Gerard Dillon, right down to those working today.
There is a vibrant visual-arts community in Galway at the moment, yet there is no proper collection of their work to display to either locals or visitors
There is a vibrant visual-arts community in Galway at the moment, yet there is no proper collection of their work to display to either locals or visitors. While there is an art collection in NUI Galway, it remains in storage – there are no facilities to display it. The lack of a municipal art gallery puts the city at a serious cultural disadvantage in relation to cities such as Cork, Limerick and Belfast and towns such as Drogheda, Sligo and Carlow.
I have seen tourists from Japan, America and France, visitors from all over the world, wander forlornly through the city in search of an art gallery. Galway, which attracts the third-largest number of visitors per annum of any city in Ireland, has no designated public art gallery. There is a real necessity to facilitate the display of Irish visual art here. What an important innovation a municipal gallery in Galway would be, and what a benefit to both the city and the county in the future.
Having lived for over forty years in Galway, working away on a quotidian basis as a sculptor, I have to emphasise that the absence of a dedicated building to exhibit art in Galway is insufficient to the needs of a modern city.