On November 21st I was able to attend a meeting of the Mayo Artists Network at the Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar, County North Mayo. I was impressed with the apparent cohesiveness of this group, which was meeting for only the second time and representing a large geographic region of very diverse artists.
The Network attempts to address artists of the region who feel isolated from the cultural centers of Ireland. This event had me recalling my own attempts to organize artists in Detroit (through the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit in particular). I am aware of the difficulties involved, and this group certainly seems like they are on the right track.
The two presentations given at the meeting represent two different ways to embed art practice into community. Amanda Rice presented her experience working with the artist collective, Cork Contemporary Projects (www.corkcontemporaryprojects.weebly.com). Her experiences, and the projects of the group, provide an excellent model for how an artist collective begins and evolves. What was not clear is how a collective like this survives when jobs, family, and individual careers begin to tug the group apart geographically.
Artist and independent curator, Michele Horrigan single-handedly invents curatorial projects and invitational residencies in and around her small village of Askeaton in County Limerick. Her residency program, Welcome to the Neighborhood, began from her own initiative, small government grant, and local donations, and has grown to include a locally supportive board of directors. Her brain-child, Askeaton Contemporary Arts manages an annual international artist residency and production program. They have commissioned over thirty artists projects in direct relationship to the town of Askeaton since 2006. Their website will do more than I can do here to share the energy and inventiveness of the programming. Several examples include a sculptor subversively “planting” sculpture in niches around the village, an interactive environmental installation in the town community center, and an artist-run pirate radio station where interviews with the people of the town are broadcast locally on the radio. More on Askeaton Contemporary Arts: http://www.askeatonarts.com
The coordinator for the Mayo Artists Network is artist John McHugh. Marie Farrell, director of the Linenhall Arts Centre was the meeting host. McHugh, an artist working in Achill Island, is also the director of CustomHouse in Westport, a subject for a future posting.