West Cork Arts Centre will create jobs and drive tourism, exhibit hears

Art space’s inaugural show hears how galleries can transform their surrounding areas

Soirse McDonagh (6), at the new West Cork Arts Centre. The centre  officially opened to the public this weekend, with the unveiling of Fourth Space, its inaugural exhibit. Photograph: Emma Jervis Photography

Soirse McDonagh (6), at the new West Cork Arts Centre. The centre officially opened to the public this weekend, with the unveiling of Fourth Space, its inaugural exhibit. Photograph: Emma Jervis Photography

 

The “monolithic” new West Cork Arts Centre (WCAC) will have a powerful impact on the region, visitors at the building’s inaugural exhibit heard on Saturday. The centre will drive year round tourism and create spin off employment as it brings top class art and performance to the area.

‘Fourth Space’, the inaugural exhibition at the new €3.5m steel and cedar clad structure in Skibbereen, was opened by Sam Thorne, artistic director of the Tate St Ives gallery in Cornwall.

The west Cork region is home to more artists per capita than both Paris and London, Thorne said.

“Having a community of artists contributes all kinds of different aspects [to a region]. One of the simple ones is tourism. That’s been a really important thing in St Ives over the past two decades,” he said.

The gallery contributes £11m (€14.6m) every year to the local economy in St Ives, while an extension to the museum that will see it double in size will contribute an estimated £85m (€113.5) to the local economy and create some 200 jobs.

“So there’s a very real powerful impact that having artists there, having art there, creates for the community,” Thorne said.

Nine artists

It was all hands on deck for the 12 staff members at the West Cork Arts Centre as crowds filled the galleries to view the work of nine artists in the building’s ambitious first exhibit.

Guest speaker, journalist and broadcaster Olivia O’Leary said she was struck by artist David Beattie’s work, Borrowed Energy. The work is centred around seawater, evaporated and absorbed by cloth, to crystallise on the inside of bucket containers, leaving “tidemarks”. The piece is a reference to the tidal Caol Stream below the gallery and perhaps a nod to the miles of rugged coastline beyond that have attracted so many artists to west Cork.

“It’s a reminder that the world we live in is evolving and changing all the time. It’s a wonderful concept,” Ms O’Leary said.

In her native Carlow, O’Leary told how she witnessed an art gallery transform a town.

“With the Visual in Carlow - I suddenly saw what a difference that made to people. It’s not quite the same colony of artists that west Cork has, but just the very fact that there was this cutting edge building, it’s a challenge saying here I am, I am a wonderful space, fill me,” she said.

WCAC chairman Declan Tiernan asked visitors to have faith and imagination in the belief that the project would be hugely successful. “This place is going to blow your mind,” he said.

He thanked all those involved in the 30-year history of the arts centre, including director Ann Davoren, board member Majella Collins O’Neill and former chairman Sean O’Cheallaigh, who passed away last year. Mayor of Co Cork Cllr Alan Coleman thanked everyone involved in the arts centre project for what they would deliver to the region in the future.