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There’s finally a resolution to the long-running saga over what to do about two statues of the folk singer Luke Kelly, City Arts Officer Ray Yeates told members of Dublin City Council’s arts committee on Monday morning.
Last year, the council – having already commissioned a bust of Kelly by artist Vera Klute – was offered a finished statue of the folk singer for free by Drumcondra local Gerry Hunt. Hunt had commissioned sculptor John Coll to complete a life-size bronze. It was ready to go.
That was awkward for the council’s City Arts Office. If it opted for the free Luke Kelly, it would compromise its own process and potentially dismiss artist Klute.
What’s the way forward? “The proposal we wish to make, in the end, is that we propose to [accept] both statues,” said Yeates at Monday’s meeting.
Klute’s bust will be placed at Luke Kelly Park in the Docklands, near Sheriff Street, where Kelly was born. The location of Coll’s bronze, which the Kelly family prefers, remains to be decided.
City Arts Officer Yeates called it “one of the most important issues facing the arts community in the city” at Monday’s meeting. He was talking about the availability of work spaces.
The council has set up a group with officials drawn from a couple of council departments, its City Arts Office, and the Arts Council. This group is tasked with working out how to create more spaces.
Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn said the council should use the Ballymun Civic Centre as a two-year pilot project. “Ballymun’s your model. Go for it,” he said.
Labour Councillor Rebecca Moynihan wasn’t convinced. “This is not about temporary spaces for artists to get a couple of crumbs,” she said.
“This is about actually creating proper, sustainable workplaces for people. I think we need to get out of our pauper attitude when it comes to artists.”
The council has allocated some of its own vacant spaces to artists, said Yeates. But many of these were temporary. He said there needs to be a cultural property agency.
These, he said, could take the form of a not-for-profit group that could negotiate with developers and local authorities.
Off the Table
The plan for a diaspora memorial and pavilion in Merrion Square Park is off the table for the moment, said Les Moore, head of the council’s Parks Department. The cost of the infrastructure is too high, he said.
In March last year, conservation architects Howley Hayes put forward designs for a pavilion at the old Rutland Memorial on the west side of the park.
Businesswoman Norma Smurfit then suggested that the pavilion should be dedicated to the Irish diaspora – and offered to fund the whole project. Last year, Moore said that idea fit with plans for the square.
But that’s changed now. “They’re proposing not to proceed with the legacy pavilion as I understand it,” said Moore.
Councillor Flynn says he would now like to see what the council’s Parks Department plans to do with the space.