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Artists have been slow to apply for a slice of the €400,000 set aside for art by the Grangegorman Development Agency (GDA).
The GDA announced the arts project, called “… the lives we live”, last year.
At the time, the GDA’s Public Art Working Group put out a statement saying it aims to support ideas that “add to the distinctiveness of the area, whether to do with its past history, or with emerging and prominent future”.
Some of the money has now been allocated to projects that aim to bring art into – and make art with – the communities in the area. But some is still up for grabs.
What’s the Money for?
“The approach is to look at different ways of realising the Per Cent for Art scheme,” says Jenny Haughton, the public arts co-ordinator on the working group.
The Per Cent for Art scheme is a government initiative first introduced in 1978, whereby 1 percent of the cost of any publicly funded capital, infrastructure and building development can be allocated to the commissioning of a work of art.
This percent was capped at €64,000 euro in 1996, however, and has yet to grow. (The chairperson of the working group, Ciaran Benson, says that around €95,000 would be a more suitable cap, were it linked to the Consumer Price Index.)
The way the GDA is counting, however, they’ve got several separate projects, rather than one big one. So that gets them to a pot of €400,000.
In September last year, at the launch, Benson described how “arts can transform a routine space with a dark past into an inspiring place with a bright future”.
Haughton says the group was told a major work was wanted for Grangegorman, “because it’s an emerging part of Dublin city”. They are looking for something big. “Something that would create a legacy,” she said.
She sets out their plans for the project. There are six different kinds of areas with different goals, which they call pathways. “The first major commission will be a visual one,” she says.
The second, meanwhile, seeks to answer a different question, she says.
“How can we animate the site? How can we make it attractive to people to come through the walls? How can people decide, with all the history of the site, that they want to come here?”
Who’s Won So Far?
So far, two projects have been announced and more are due to be revealed shortly. It’s already possible to discern a flavour of the arts scheme, though. It’s fresh.
Architect Emmett Scanlon has been commissioned, along with Aisling McCoy and Paul Guinan, to work on Home on the Grange. This piece aims to explore what it is to make a place a home.
“How people occupy space and use space,” says Scanlon. “We think that is a creative act and we think there is something profound and creative going on, even though it’s quite subtle.”
The team plan to use local hair salons and barbers to explore what “making home” means to the locals of Grangegorman.
Scanlon’s earlier work “Nine Lives” looked at similar concepts, but this was a chance to develop the ideas further, he said.
“People were making and remaking their homes. Even though they had been designed for them, life had changed, kids had come along, people had decided to work from home, or things just hadn’t worked out as they thought it would,” Scanlon said.
“So they changed and reprogrammed and reorganised the space, so people start to occupy space with their possessions. It’s intensely creative, but we don’t give it credit,” he said.
“It seemed an opportune time to try and understand the place more and to try and engage more with Grangegorman, and to continue thoughts and ideas that were going on in our own minds.”
To Scanlon, this is the key to the art scheme. There’s a benefit to both parties, and it allows the artist to develop their own ideas within the Grangegorman context.
“One of the really interesting things about Grangegorman is the diversity of age profile,” says Scanlon. “People who have lived there and have lived there a very long time, and the new people who have moved in …”
The second project already selected is artist Jennie Guy’s The Masterplan, which aims to explore the educational environment of young people in primary schools.
The projects are distinct. Haughton said that it just worked out that way. “Variety happens naturally with a smart jury who are independent and very rigorous,” she said.
Emerging Artists Welcome
The funding isn’t limited solely to professional artists.
The first block of funding, which at €250,000 has the largest budget, is solely for professionals. But a variety of creators have bid for money in the other areas.
“One artist came in and said, ‘I’ve never done this before!’” says Haughton.
Emerging artists who aim to become professional got just as much time and attention as those already established, she said.
The range doesn’t stop there, either.
The fourth block of funding, called “pathway four”, looks to help those within the local community to develop in their fields.
“Say a history teacher that has been teaching in the position, and they are stuck in what they’re doing,” says Haughton. “This pathway is supposed to help them come up with the creative ways of teaching.”
Inspired by Harvard University academic Doris Sommer, whose work focuses on art that engages and changes society, this funding round looks for ways to revitalise and reshape learning in Ireland.
“For the moment, we’re going to go completely open,” says Haughton. There’s no deadline, and the working group just want people who are interested to contact them, she said.
The application process is simple: first, there’s a single sheet that sets out the idea for the project, and then the artist is invited to go and talk to the jury, said Haughton.
“So it’s more much accessible. It’s very simple,” she says.
Even so, a meagre seven applications were submitted for the first round of the “Pathway Two” funding — the one that is about increasing local participation in the arts. And just 13 more applications came in for the second round.
There’s almost €100,000 euro available, so the low level of interest is befuddling. But there’s still one more shot at money from that purse.
The third round’s deadline is 25 January. Haughton says she would like to see an increase in the number of artists applying.
No matter the number, every applicant will receive an interview with the jury, she said. “Even if we get 50 applicants, we’ll find a way to see every one of them.”
It’s high time these kinds of heavy handed Arts briefs were put to bed. They are endemic in Council grant briefs throughout Ireland where Art is just seen as shiny wallpaper to cover over any cracks the council would be better off solving in the first place rather than whitewashing areas with Art as a distraction.
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