The Shed’ on Galway Docks hosted a great exhibition called Borders by Varvara Shavrova during the very successful Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF). This exhibition focused on the longest border in the world, between China and Russia, which evoked the icy, unforgiving and breathtakingly beautiful environment of the border crossing points.
Aidan Dunne, Visual Art Critic of The Irish Times, described The Shed as an ideal venue, “a suitably in-between location”. I would have to compliment the GIAF for their visual arts programming this year and the buzz it created in the city. Also during the week, the amazing vibe in the Galway City Museum, under the direction of Eithne Verling , was vibrant and remarkable.
It does however, raise yet again questions on the dearth of venues in the city. The programme was for the most part hosted in “temporary” venues like The Shed and Connacht Tribune print works, making the need to address the issue of a permanent Art Gallery for the City and County worth bringing back on the agenda. When will we have one? When will we have a completed Art House Cinema? Why is it that Galway, considered a centre of culture, has such a lack of venues?
John Fitzgerald of the ESRI wrote recently that when you look at the successful economies of the modern world, the presence of substantial vibrant cities is at the heart of modern economic development. He goes on to discuss the current workforce and their choice of where to live. Many of the people either now returning or living in our cities have spent time abroad and they make decisions around locations that offer a diverse cultural and social life as well as a job. I agree with him when he says that a city that is attractive for workers to live in is attractive for business to locate in. He goes on to talk of Galway as being a city that has grown so much more and faster than traditional industrial cities like Waterford (this hurts to say being a Waterford woman).
Galway, of course, has a great and vibrant cultural environment in music, theatre, and the arts in general, with Druid, Macnas, GIAF, Cúirt, and Tulca and so on, making it a most desirable location to live in. So is Galway defined by its culture and is its culture one of its most distinctive features? If so, we need to ensure couple of things;
• Public investment to enhance cultural and community infrastructure – for a start in Galway, the Picture Palace needs to be finished and a new venue for a permanent home for the visual arts identified or donated.
• Ensure that the City and County fully and totally embrace the City’s bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2020.
• Keep looking at all the emerging young groups, community groups, such as Ragairí, Galway Community Circus, Little Cinema, Cula Bula to name but a few. These are the new, vibrant cultural ambassadors for our city, and they must be listened to, embraced, funded and supported.
So, The Shed, now a part of our infrastructure, needs to have the holes in the roof repaired, no fault to the owners, but a sad reflection of our urgent need to create more facilities. But well done to all who made this possible, despite the holes in The Shed!