Visual Arts in Belfast - A Personal Reflection

Deirdre Robb considers the challenges Belfast has recently met and will take on

This article appears as part of the Creative Belfast Showcase which took place at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, during February 2006.

Belfast Continues to be a hub for visual arts, indeed Belfast has a wealth of individual visual artists and 10 Studio groups that are based in the city centre and surrounding areas.

Two of these Studio groups delivered excellent Public art projects. Paragon Studios PS2 Gallery produced a unique Street Archaeology arts trail in Donegall Street while Creative Exchange presented a travelling exhibition for Metro buses called ‘Transart’.

This, in addition to Queen’s Street open days, has created accessibility for everyone. Flax Arts’ and Belfast Print Workshop’s international residencies along with Declan McGonagall’s UU Interface programme, bring new challenges, inspirational ideas and future partnerships, which in turn bring new experiences and critical debate that are essential for the growth of visual arts practice here in the city.

We have a strong local gallery presence that produce innovative and varied programming, including the Engine Room Gallery, Golden Thread, Ormeau Baths Gallery and the Naughton Gallery at Queen’s, not forgetting emerging galleries such as the Hedge Gallery on the Antrim Road and our dedicated photographic Gallery, Belfast Exposed, based in the Cathedral Quarter.

One new and exciting visual arts development happened this year, as Belfast and Northern Ireland experienced their first contribution to the prestigious Venice Biennale which was curated by the Director of Ormeau Baths Gallery, Hugh Mulholland.

Belfast artists were very well received by the international art world and local artists including Peter Richards, Alistair Wilson, Aisling O'Beirn, Paddy Bloomer and Nikki Keogh represented and showcased visual arts in Belfast.

Unfortunately we have not achieved our long awaited high profile City Centre Gallery, although many people have been inspired with the Northern Ireland Visual Arts Forum bid for the Switch room where OAR delivered the innovative ‘Building’ exhibition and we wait with baited breath to see how the Old Museum Arts Centre will take visual arts forward.

Deirdre Robb