Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Loss of Galway City's Public Arts Officer

The Loss of Galway City's Public Arts officer

An Open Letter from Aideen Barry

Dear Artists and Arts Organisations of Galway,

I am sending you this email to address a concern I have and one that I think is going to become a major concern for Galway into the future.

Recently Megs Morley's contract was not renewed by Galway City Council. Megs was appointed Public Arts officer over 36 months ago and in that time she has committed her all to the development of Public Art practice in the City. Not only has her role been instrumental in delivering best practice in relation to Public Art she has also exposed Galway City as a flag ship centre for ground breaking Public Art commissions and best practice. Her role also created the potential for making Galway a benchmark in international public art practice.

It is my own personal opinion that the decision taken by Galway City Council not to renew her contract and in a sense remove the role entirely has pushed Galway's Arts development back and has possibly stunted the growth in arts commissioning and expansion quite significantly.

I think that this decision to remove the role of the Public Arts Officer also comes a quite a significant time. The drafting of the City's 2010 Arts Policy, recently commissioned by Sarah Searson, is due to be released by the office and it is my fear that this policy will show Galway City Council's short comings and institutional amnesia created by the elimination of the role of Public Arts Officer.

I have spoken to a number of you about this issue recently but I would like to hear personally from you now about your feelings on the issue and if you would consider making a challenge to Galway City Council on this issue.

Kind regards
Aideen Barry


  1. I'd second everything- nicely put Aideen,
    Megs has given Galway 100%
    out of 5%,
    she stays, cut budgets else where,
    We don't need your cuts, we need vision & wisdom
    & 10% at least

  2. Bring this up at the Gradcam conference debate at NCAD tomorrow on public art. John Molloy and Ed Carroll are discussing the issue. Its plain ignorant.

  3. Did they not nominate a new representative for Public arts? thats outrageous

  4. So the city of Galway has no Public Arts Officer what so ever ? This is ridiculous get it together city council and get a decent city architect/planner while your at it for gods sake.

  5. It is very important that we appreciate the people with the expertise,education, knowledge,and fresh thinking,visionary ideas etc. Very disappointing development. Regression in recession. So Galway "the City and County of culture is less two public art officers? Where will that leave us..

  6. this is disgraceful, Megs is a brilliant arts officer and its extremely short sighted not to renew her contract. Galway prides itself as a city of the arts but its reputation without substance.
    An awful lot more could be done to help artists out there and having only two arts officers is ridiculous. I also agree with eoghan above, we should get a decent city architect/ planner while we are at it

  7. Dear Artists and Organisations,

    Thank you for the responses. They have been most constructive and appropriate.

    I just want to correct two issues that need re adjusting in my original statement.
    Megs Morley was appointed 24 months ago on a two year contract, not a 3 year contract as I inferred in my original letter.
    (Again this highlights how much she accomplished in such a short space in time!).

    Secondly, Galway City Council have not publically issued a statement about the demise of the role as yet. Currently all queries relating to the role of the Public Art Officer and Public Art Commissioning are by the 15th of January 2010, to be directed to Kate Kelly in Community and Enterprise affairs in Galway City Council.

    ( A point of contact for those interested in sending in their "queries", "Concerns" or "letters of outrage" in such cases.)

    Finally, I think it is important to find out when the Arts Policy Draft is to be made available to the public. This is extremely important and something we should all be asking about.

    Kind regards,

    Aideen Barry

  8. You have raised the flare on the greater issue of just how much responsibility the City council in Galway has for the development of the arts in the city: certainly individual councillors know little and care less about the cultural life of the city. There needs to be a call for councillors to become more self-informed and hands-on with the arts here. We need to know more about how decisions are made, how the arts are funded who funds them and so on. Sarah Searson's contract specifically forbade her from meeting alone with individual artists or artists' groups, so I would be surprised if she is anything other than window-dressing and her report and conclusions cannot therefore possibly reflect views other than those proposed by the Galway City Arts Officer.

  9. Dear All,

    The draft City Arts Stratagy 2010-2013 has now been made available to the Galway City Council's website if you would care to have a look.

    Please circulate this information with your collegues.

    Kindest wishes
    Aideen Barry

  10. Institutional amnesia says it all, keep roles in place that add value to our city or re jig current roles to get new faces, fresh ideas in to the City Council as everything is becoming stagnant with people in positions for far too long we need some fresh air- in with the new and out with the far too old who would even justify letting Megs Morley go. I will be writing my own letter of outrage.