Finance Minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir today announced that he is committed to making the Civil Service Art collection more accessible to the public.
The Minister also launched the Arts Advisory Panel Report at the opening of a joint North/South art exhibition at the Alley Theatre in Strabane. The Minister recently established an Art Advisory Panel to advise him and to bring forward recommendations on how best to use the 1,400 works within the collection.
The Minister said: “I am excited today to announce that I will be bringing the Civil Service Art collection out to the public and engaging with the community to bring our art into places where it has not been seen before. I am committed to ensuring the art is promoted as a living collection.
“The Art Advisory Panel has brought forward exciting proposals about how we might open up the collection to the widest possible audience which I have accepted. I plan to bring the collection to our young and old people, those in schools, libraries, what you might describe as untraditional spaces. This initiative recognises the historic and cultural importance of the Civil Service collection which should be available to be seen by the people, who have after all, paid for it.”
The recommendations include progressing a programme of art procurement and planning an ongoing series of exhibitions.
The Minister added: “I want to help support our art community particularly if I can nurture young artists and help them to become established through this programme of commissioning.”
Minister Ó Muilleoir made the announcement at the opening of the joint Department of Finance and the Office of Public Works touring exhibition, “Interesting and Weird At the Same Time” in The Alley Theatre, Strabane. The pieces in the exhibition were chosen by primary school pupils and the exhibition’s title was a description of one of the works by one of the children. The touring exhibition will be on display in the theatre until 6 January 2017 before moving to the Lab Gallery, Dublin in February and then finally to the Gerard Dillon Gallery in Belfast in May 2017.
Roísín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “I am delighted and honoured to have had the opportunity to lead the Art Advisory Panel and bring forward proposals that will inform the future for this historic and valuable Civil Service Arts collection. I can say resolutely this is one of Northern Ireland’s most important collections containing many significant works by our leading artists; indeed an image of Colin Middleton’s Boats in Harbour, graces the report’s front cover while work by mother and son, the painters Catherine and Simon McWilliams, as well as Micky Donnelly and Lawson Burch are beautifully displayed within.
“Our recommendations are aimed at helping increase public access to these wonderful art works in the hope that they may be seen by many more people across Northern Ireland. Whether building digital gallery space for the collection through a website, supporting procurement and commissioning programme for the work of emerging artists, or developing loan schemes and public tours in schools and libraries, this collection must be curated and displayed appropriately and celebrated for its gorgeous and challenging content.”