Arts Council and Temple Bar
Sir, - I wish to refute a number of claims contained in Eamonn O'Doherty's mischievous letter of August 25th. The Arts Council has never put pressure on any organisation to move premises (or to maintain its premises) anywhere, be it to Temple Bar or to any other location in Ireland. There is no "special relationship", as Mr O'Doherty claims, between the Arts Council and Temple Bar Properties.
Mr O'Doherty further implies that a decision by the Arts Council in 1998 to reduce its funding of the Sculptors Society of Ireland was somehow linked to the SSI's alleged refusal to move to premises in Temple Bar. When the Arts Council considers an application for funding from an organisation it takes a number of things into account. These include the quality of its programme, the service it provides to artists, its financial stability and the quality of its management. The decision must also be taken in the competitive context of funding applications from other organisations working in the same, or similar areas. The Arts Council must decide on the basis of which organisations offer programmes which most closely meet its own strategic priorities.
These were the only factors taken into account when the council considered SSI's application for funding in 1998 and decided to reduce its funding to the organisation. The Arts Council had already signalled its concerns about these areas in correspondence with SSI over a number of previous years.
These criteria were applied also to the funding application from the National Sculpture Factory, which Mr O'Doherty mentions in his letter, and to the applications from hundreds of other arts organisations, many of whom have received significant increases in funding in the period 1998-2000, of which Mr O'Doherty makes no mention.
His to distinguish lazy innuendo from simple fact regarding corporate decisions by the council only diminishes his position. It also offends, gratuitously and deeply, the many individuals who have given enormous unpaid service to the arts through their membership of the Arts Council since its inception in 1951 as well as the professional staff who support the Council's work for artists, arts organisations and the public.
It is worth noting that SSI has received a significant increase in Arts Council funding this year (it received £63,486 in 1998, £76,184 in 1999 and £105,700 in 2000). This was in response to the excellent and diverse programme of activities SSI put forward, and takes into account significant progress made by the SSI board and staff in preparing the organisation to meet the challenges and needs of its plans for supporting sculpture in the future. - Yours, etc.,
Dermot McLaughlin, Artform Director, The Arts Council, 70 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.