Resignation of city of culture’s artistic director followed performance review

Deep anxiety among arts community in Limerick after Wallace quits

John Greenwood and Mary Coll speaking on behalf of members of the Limerick artistic community who expressed their support for Karl Wallace. Photograph: Brian Gavin/Press 22

John Greenwood and Mary Coll speaking on behalf of members of the Limerick artistic community who expressed their support for Karl Wallace. Photograph: Brian Gavin/Press 22


The resignation of the artistic director of Limerick City of Culture on the eve of the launch of the year long event, followed a performance review of his work, the chairman of the organising board Pat Cox has said.

The decision by Karl Wallace to quit has caused deep anxiety among members of the arts community in Limerick who feel the future of the programme has been severely compromised by his departure.

Over 60 individual artists and key stakeholders in the project, attended a meeting with Mr Wallace yesterday where he told them his position was “untenable”.

Mr Wallace tendered his resignation to Limerick City Council on December 30th last, just 24 hours before the New Year’s Eve launch of the year-long event.

International programmer Jo Mangan and commissioning and legacy programmer Maeve McGrath, who were both contracted to provide service for city of culture, have also withdrawn from the project.

Reacting to the latest controversy to envelop the Government’s first city of culture initiative, Mr Cox claimed the resignations may be a “blessing in disguise”.

“If you have problems of an ongoing nature where people feel uneasy with the system or with each other and you don’t address it the chances are you pay a bigger price later,” he said.

Mr Cox insisted Mr Wallace’s decision to leave was “a lot more complicated” than claims of a breakdown in communications with the board’s chief executive Patricia Ryan, whose appointment caused controversy as her post was not advertised.

Issues raised
Mr Cox told Live95FM radio station that the board had a “very lengthy meeting” in early December, during which a number of issues were raised, including a performance review of Mr Wallace’s work to date.

“Such a review was undertaken. For a combination of reasons, to do with holiday leave and sick leave, the artistic director was not in a position to make himself available through the month of December when these issues were raised with him to discuss any of the matters, with any of the personnel who would be relevant to such discussions, and he subsequently decided on his own part to submit a resignation.”

In an email sent out on December 30th last, Mr Wallace invited a number of people involved in delivering projects for city of culture to attend a meet at Limerick City Gallery of Art yesterday for an “important presentation”. While Mr Wallace attended the meeting he declined to speak to the media afterwards.

John Greenwood, chairman of Professional Limerick Artists Network said Mr Wallace’s resignation had compromised the programme. “We have full confidence in the programme that Karl Wallace put together and we stand by his vision. We are deeply concerned that without an artistic director on board and especially someone who had the vision to put this together how this will all pan out,” Mr Greenwood said. “Karl Wallace went through a lengthy interview process to get his job. He was hired on the credit of his ability. He has a vision for city of culture, he is the artistic director that put this together so, yes, without him it is compromised,” he added.

Writer, poet and former director of The Belltable Arts Centre, Mary Coll, also expressed concern over how the programme for city of culture would move forward for 2014 without an artistic director.

Ms Coll said: “I can’t comment on his reasons [to quit] but he said the position was untenable . . . I accept that he is telling us how he felt honestly and we regret that has happened.”

“I think it is going to be very difficult to have the kind of city of culture that we could have without an artistic director . . .” she said.