Contact Studios

I can’t believe contact studios is closing.. As a former member from the year when the studios were first established back in 1997, this is very saddening to see happen.

Back in the year of 1996 after graduating from Limerick School of Art and Design, I had no space to continue painting. I didn’t know much back then about who I was or what I wanted out of life..but one thing I knew for certain was that refuge for me always laid in raising my son and making art. I was depressed for a long time because I was unable to paint due to circumstances and having no proper art space..

One day a former college good friend Carl Doran from LSAD told me about these art studios he was involved in trying to get set up and asked if I was interested in a space in Contact Studios. He said they were free but to earn the space I had to teach art to a group of elderly men and women in one of the selected retirement homes in Limerick city and for only 2 hours a week. Of course I was thrilled and went for it. I was so happy to finally have a place I could get back to making art and all only for a small exchange in return by teaching some amazing and interesting people in the retirement home..

Now that Contact Studios are possibly closing some 20 years on in such an age of art and cultural awareness…this is really hard to believe and very saddening.. the end on an era almost.. But hopefully something good will turn round to save the studios, who knows..

Below is the official press release sent to me by Carl Doran a few days ago..
Imminent Closure of Contact Studios, Friday 4th August 2017

On Friday August 4th next, Contact Studios, Limerick’s  (and one of Ireland’s) longest established Independent Studios, will be forced to close its doors, with the loss of 14 Artist Studios – over one third of all Visual Arts Spaces in the city.

For 20 years the studios have provided workspaces for over 100 artists, LSAD graduates, mid -career and mature artists, supporting every Fine Art discipline, including Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, Ceramics, Photography and Illustration among others.

We have been intrinsic to the cultural life of the city over this period, as an organisation, and through our individual careers, hosting and initiating events, exhibitions and open studios in collaboration with every major cultural entity over the period, including Limerick City Gallery, the Hunt Museum, the University of Limerick, Limerick Printmakers, LSAD and many others.

Until October of 2016, Artists gave their time providing weekly recreational Art Classes and Social Meetings to Service Users of the Mental Health Services in Limerick (approximately 8-10,000 hrs since 1997), in what was a unique barter system. It provided a valuable meeting point between people and succeeded in breaking down barriers in a casual and friendly manner.

Last year, we were advised that the HSE wished us to vacate the building.

There was, and there remains no advance purpose for our workplace of 20 years, bar that the St. Joseph’s Campus was to be ‘tidied up’ following a National Audit of HSE Campuses.

We have held protracted talks with the HSE, and separately, Limerick City and County Council to try to avert our removal, while also making the point that the city needs a properly run Municipal studio facility, and highlighting the possibilities of artists providing services to the city and its populace in exchange for subsidised spaces. There has been some progress on this but, should it be approved, it will take 6 months.

Unfortunately, the unit as it exists, will cease to be, as artists and their artworks will be scattered through city and county (and country) next week. There are no spaces, even storage spaces where our artists can put their work in Limerick.

We would like to make it clear that we are grateful to the HSE for their provision of a premises (albeit paid for in kind) over the last 20 years. It displayed a creativity of approach, an understanding of what can be achieved through partnership and vision, and an understanding of what Culture can offer to the Mental Health Service and its users, among others.

We would seek, however, that an arbitrary date/timeline, could be extended until an alternative home is found, particularly where there is no immediate plan or use for the building.

We have offered on numerous occasions to compensate the HSE financially or through our time, for the premises, but all our attempts to do this have been rejected out of hand.

As a model for how a studios can support artists, and the community at large, we had hoped that the program would be expanded, tailored to different communities around Ireland. Unfortunately, it would seem the organisational skills, camaraderie, expertise, and day to day careers of the current, and future artists of Limerick will be much the poorer for the foreseeable future if this decision goes ahead, and we mourn for that.

Current Contact Studios Members: Gerry O’Mahony, Isabella Walsh, Sheila Stone, Julie Brazil, Maurice Foley, Ciarán Nash, Kathleen Bartlett, Carl Doran, Nuala O’Sullivan, Sheila Richardson, Kevin O’Keeffe, Anne Marie Morrin, Ann Daly, Emma Fisher.elow is the official press release that was sent to me from Carl Doran a few days ago..

Published by Derval Freeman

Graduate of Limerick School of Art and Design 1996 Fine art painter and photographer

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