Six movers and shakers of the arts scene on their 2017 highlights and 2018 expectations

Some of the movers and shakers of Cork’s arts and entertainment scene tell Des O’Driscoll about their highlights of 2017, and what they are looking forward to for 2018.

Matt Berninger at the Cork Opera House as The National kick off their Sleep Well, Beast tour during Sounds from a Safe Harbour. Pic: Bríd O'Donovan

Fiona Kearney

Glucksman Gallery, UCC

What was the best show/event you were involved with this year?

It was a total thrill to present drawings by some of the greatest artists of the 20th century in the Glucksman as part of our Set in Time exhibition. It was the first time this collection had been exhibited in Ireland, and I got quite used to having the stunning Picasso, Matisse and De Chirico works in the galleries. Sadly, we had to return them to the Wadsworth Atheneum in the US, but we are planning further international collaborations in the coming year.

The best thing I was involved with, though, was supporting young refugees and asylum seekers to express their voices and views in different art projects at the Glucksman. Unveiling a public mural created by these extraordinary young people in Fitzgerald’s Park on Culture Night was the highlight of my cultural year.

What was the best show you saw at another venue?

The Venice Biennale had several wonderful solo shows this year. Highlights were the adventurous and mind-shifting work of Ann Imhof at the German Pavilion and Geta Bratescu’s complex, delicate illustrations, collages and sculptures in the Romanian Pavilion.

Ireland’s Jesse Jones also created a potent and mesmerising installation.

Funding aside, what were the major issues in the arts world?

The issue of sexual harassment bravely called out by women throughout 2017 is also an issue in the visual arts. Female artists, curators and art critics expanded on the #metoo movement with the #notsurprised campaign. Given that art activists such as the Guerrilla Girls have been addressing these issues since the 1980s, it certainly shouldn’t be a shock that gender inequality is endemic in systems of power such as the art world.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at your own venue, and why?

We will be presenting a special exhibition of the work of Bauhaus masters Josef and Anni Albers from August – October 2018. The exhibition will be designed to enable blind and partially sighted people to experience the Albers’s work through tactile models and audio guides.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at a different venue, and why?

The main Venice Architecture Biennale is curated by an Irish practice for the first time. I can’t wait to see how Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects will shape this world stage for architecture.

Tony Sheehan

Triskel Arts Centre

Best event you were involved with this year?

David Jacques ‘Oil is the Devil’s Excrement’ was exhibited at Triskel in mid-2017. It got one of the biggest responses from the public, tackling as it did the way oil is the ruination of any country that discovers it. It was especially powerful in the Christchurch space, because of the way David used Medieval imagery, particularly demons, displayed almost like Stations of the Cross, and the effect was heightened in the atmosphere of the church.

David Jacques

Best show you saw at another venue?

The premiere of Gavin Bryars’ Winestead, a work commissioned by Opera North in the context of Hull being the City of Culture in 2017.

A standout issue from 2017?

Triskel has always been conscious that it has a remit to endeavour to provide access to the arts for everyone — and to provide artistic programme that otherwise wouldn’t get seen or heard in Cork. We have a complementary role with others in the city to try to provide as broad a spectrum of arts as possible, and there is always a danger that populism could override this in how the arts are valued and even presented.

Triskel event you’re looking forward to?

We are looking forward to our 40th year with a number of special programmes in our cinema. One of these is the second edition of ‘Deep Focus: Women In Film’. It is a celebration of female directors who tackle a wide range of subjects.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at a different venue, and why?

Cork is as vibrant as ever and we’re spoiled for choice in 2018. It’s good to see places like the Farmgate Café putting on events, there is a new director at Crawford Gallery and there is a genuine excitement about the appointment of Mary McCarthy to the role. Then we have the next generation coming up through festivals and initiatives like the Quarter Block Party, which runs through the “spine” of North Main St and South Main St and surrounding area in February.

Julie Kelleher

Everyman Theatre

Best show/event you were involved with this year?

We produced the world premiere of Kevin Barry’s first play, Autumn Royal, and gave Cork writer Lynda Radley her Irish mainstage premiere. But our production of Dancing at Lughnasa has a little piece of my heart. I was so nervous about directing this masterpiece, but it turned out to be a lovely experience as I had such an enjoyable time working with a wonderful cast and team.

Autumn Royal

Best show you saw at another venue?

Everything Not Saved, produced by Malaprop and written by Dylan Coburn Gray. I saw it as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival in the Cube at Project Arts Centre in September.

Major issues in the arts world?

The outpouring of experiences of those who have experienced abuse at the hands of the powerful has obviously been the big story of 2017.

The other big issue is Brexit, and the impact it will have on artists who travel internationally to make work, on companies that bring work to us from the UK, on exchange rates, and in particular, the potentially catastrophic impact it may have for colleagues in the arts world north of the border.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at your own venue?

We’re co-producing the world premiere of Asking for It with Landmark Productions, a stage adaptation of Louise O’Neill’s brilliant book, which we’ll present in association with Cork Midsummer Festival next year. It will have been two and a bit years in the making by the time audiences see it.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at a different venue, and why?

Next year we get to take three shows produced or co-produced by the Everyman to other Irish venues. Along with from Asking for It, Autumn Royal by Kevin Barry goes to eight venues nationwide in May, and in October, our production of John O’Brien’s new opera The Nightingale and the Rose goes from Cork to Dublin and Limerick.

William Hammond

Cork Folk Festival

Best show you were involved with?

We organised a reunion concert with members of De Dannan in the Oliver Plunkett on the Sunday of the festival. It we one of those electric events where huge numbers of people came out of the rafters to see.

The concert was billed as the launch of Aidan Coffey’s CD, ‘The Corner House Set’ and featured Frankie Gavin, Alec Finn, Colm Murphy, Charlie Piggott and Aidan Coffey.

This was the first gig that Frankie and Alec played together in 13 years. Their band De Dannan broke up in 2004 and there was a massive fall out between Frankie and Alec over the use of the band name. Aidan Coffey, Colm Murphy and myself came up the plan to get them both to Cork.

Afterwards, when chatting to Alec and Frankie, they both agreed that the whole thing got out of hand and shook hands.

What was the best show you saw elsewhere?

Indian sitarist Niladri Kumar while on a visit to New Delhi in India with my family.

Major issues?

Reaching new audiences is one of our major issues. We find audiences for folk and traditional music have got older and it’s difficult to programme for the tastes of younger people.

Also, suitable venues in Cork for folk music events. Since the demise of the Pavilion, we have struggled to find venues that take 200/300 people.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year?

We have already planned a few major concerts, one with Kate Rusby, on her first visit to Cork. We are are also bringing down a wonderfully creative group from Ennis to perform at the festival. The Irish Memory Orchestra, led by composer Dave Flynn and featuring 20 creative traditional musicians.

Ann Davoren

Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre

Best event you were involved with this year?

Susan MacWilliam’s survey exhibition Modern Experiments. This was the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of one of Ireland’s most significant international contemporary artists.

What was the best show you saw at another venue?

Headland, an exhibition of new work by Elizabeth Magill at Limerick City Gallery of Art. I hadn’t seen Elizabeth’s work in the flesh in over 10 years so this was a real treat.

Major issues in 2017?

The challenge I see facing publically funded arts organisations is to be relevant and responsive to their communities who, at the end of the day, are the people who fund them. With the increasing emphasis on cultural tourism, there is a danger that our home audiences could be overlooked.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at your own venue?

Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger is an exhibition of artwork from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. The exhibition at Uillinn will include significant work by major Irish and Irish American artists of the past 170 years such as Daniel Macdonald, Paul Henry, Jack B Yeats, and Hughie O’Donoghue.

Event you’re most looking forward to for next year at a different venue?

Landmarks and Lifeforms, an exhibition by two Beara-based artists, Frieda Meaney and Danny Osborne, at the Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, in February.

Mary Hickson

Sounds From a Safe Harbour

Best event you were involved with?

Sounds from a Safe Harbour 2017 surpassed all hopes and dreams. It was the most rewarding experience I have ever had at ‘work’. It filled my heart and soul with so much and ignited a new love in me for Cork City. There is so much going on in this city, but when we pull together and pool resources our power is overwhelming.

Having the opportunity to present artists like The National and Bon Iver in my home town in the way that we did was incredibly exciting. The team behind this ultra special festival really emanated the spirit of what we set out to achieve, a festival for everyone, egoless and borderless — resonating with the genuine energy of Cork City. SFSH17 took two years to create and the 2019 edition is already beginning to take shape.

What was the best show you saw at another venue?

Crash Ensemble’s Crashland’s event, which I produced, took the ensemble to the most incredible spaces around the country from a beach on Innish Bofin to a lighthouse on Aaranmore (Donegal).

Funding aside, name one or two of the major issues in the arts world?

The major issue is funding so it’s difficult to put that aside. We need to be empowered to be more ambitious and be able to create work bigger than ourselves and where we come from. The knowledge is here on the ground, but we just need the right kind of support to deliver the vision.

Another issue is the lack of focused support for the makers — the producers — who are the driving forces behind many of the wonderful things that do happen.

Your own event you’re looking forward to?

The second edition of a project I was involved in in 2016 in Berlin. We invited 80 bands to come and collaborate for a week and presented the results of this engagement over two days at the Funkhaus. We are presenting it again in August in the same venue.

Other event you’re most looking forward to?

It Takes a Village by Joe and Ed from The Good Room/Live at St. Luke’s. I am really hoping I can attend – would LOVE to see Young Fathers.




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