Minister Martin Mansergh visits Sligo

Minister Martin Manseragh TD, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works and the Arts, speaking at the launch of the Model Arts and Niland Gallery’s Fundraising Campaign for the Future Model Redevelopment. Photo by James Connolly.

On his visit to Sligo yesterday, Wednesday 10th September, to launch the Model Arts and Niland Gallery’s new fundraising campaign, Minister Martin Mansergh, Minister of State with responsibility for the Arts, urged those “citizens that have prospered to show their appreciation to society and to discover again that impulse of pragmatic patriotism that wants to give something back.” He went on to add that those that decide to give to projects like the Model Arts and Niland Gallery redevelopment will reap a return from their fellow citizens that will in time transform “even the most modest bequest into an honoured legacy”

The Minister was visiting Sligo to launch the new fundraising campaign for the Model Arts and Niland Gallery’s redevelopment, which was held at the restored Canis Major at the Clarion Hotel. The fundraising campaign includes two opportunities to contribute to the Future model, a Support the Build programme, largely targeted towards corporate supporters and individuals, and a Buy-A-Seat campaign, which seeks to raise €50,000 towards the construction of the new purpose built performance space by making just 100 seats available to purchase at €500 each. Through purchasing a seat donors will not only help deliver a much needed mid-sized space for live performance in Sligo, but will also have their name, or the name of a loved one, associated with the space into the future.

The event was opened by Mayor Councillor Veronica Cawley who spoke of the unwavering commitment the Model and Niland Board have shown to the redevelopment project, which she has personally observed during her time sitting on the board. She spoke about how the plans for the refurbished Model “have captured the imagination of the people of Sligo, and not just those with a passion for the Arts.”

Mayor Cawley continued to outline the educational importance of the redevelopment, with the creation of a new education suite, which will act as a valuable resource for the people of Sligo and the Northwest. She concluded by making reference to how fitting it was to enhance the Greenfort area, one of the most historical in Sligo, with the delivery of a new Cultural District.

Cathaoirleach Councillor Jude Devins welcomed the Minister to Sligo, remarking on the Minister’s passionate and articulate advocacy of the Arts in Ireland, and how his presence in Sligo for the launch was “ a tribute to the people who have been working so hard to promote the Arts in Sligo and the North West.” Cathaoirleach Devins outlined the basic objectives of the redevelopment, which is “to provide a world class cultural centre which will deliver an unparalleled visitor experience, a flagship contemporary art space that will be dynamic, innovative and inclusive.” He went on to add that he firmly believes that in progressing this project the local authorities will deliver a landmark cultural centre which will underpin Sligo’s reputation as one of the most progressive and dynamic local authorities in the country. The development of a cultural district has the potential to be a “driving force in the continuing growth of our city”

Cathaoirleach Devins and Mayor Cawley both paid tribute to the determination and sense of vision and purpose displayed by the Future Model Development Fundraising Board. The Fundraising Board is chaired by Martin Reilly and sat on by Claire Ronan and Damian Tansey who spoke on their behalf. Mr. Tansey welcomed the assembled guests in Irish, and then spoke passionately about the history of the Niland Collection, the dedication of Nora Niland and the significance of the Collection and of the Yeats paintings that make up a significant portion of it. He urged the people of Sligo to dig deep and to support the innovative redevelopment through one of the fundraising products being launched at the event. Innovation in the Arts depends on the support of the private sector, with businesses needed to invest in the future of our society through their investment on projects such as the Model’s redevelopment.

Mr. Tansey was preceded by the new Director Curator of the Model Arts and Niland Gallery; Seamus Kealy, who joins the Model from the Blackwood Gallery at the University of Toronto in Canada and brings a wealth of international experience to the role. In her introduction Chairwoman of the Model Bernadette O’Shea remarked on Seamus’s strong Sligo connections, spending time as he did living here as a child and visiting family here over the years.

Seamus spoke of his pleasure in returning to Sligo and taking up the role of Director Curator of the Model, and outlined some of the significant events in the Model’s offsite programme taking place over the coming months. The Model has a series of concerts to celebrate Sligo New Music on Saturday 20thSeptember, with contemporary works by Phillip Glass, Stockhausen and local composers Cathal Roche and Siobhan Cleary. The new spaces for music programme continues with a traditional concert from Emer Mayock in the handball alley of Summerhill College, an intimate concert from Bellx1 and a concert from the Irish Baroque Orchestra Soloists to celebrate the Sligo Baroque Festival in October. He drew special attention to a major exhibition of UK artist Sonia Boyce in late October, entitled For you, only you, which will take place in the newly restored Castle House on Castle Street and which includes a number of associated live choral performances in Sligo Abbey and other historical venues around Sligo.

Seamus spoke of his delight at being at the Model during this exciting time and thanked the Borough and County Councils, in particular Hubert Kearns, for their vision in creating and supporting this innovative redevelopment. He went on to thank the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism for their significant support of this project through the awarding of €1.75milion via the ACCESS II fund.

In his closing words Minister Manseragh remarked on how delighted the department was to see that the Model’s vibrant offsite programme means that there will be no disruption to the Model’s activities during the temporary closure. He referenced the Model as one of “the most dynamic and admired contemporary arts centres in Ireland” and how “the redevelopment will mean that Sligo and the Northwest will have an exceptional home for the contemporary arts on par with any such centre in an equivalent town or city in Europe.”

In attendance at the launch were County Manager Hubert Kearns, TD Eamon Scanlon, Councillor Declan Bree, Councillor Imelda Henry, Director of Community and Enterprise Rita McNulty, Sligo Arts Officer Rhona McGrath, patrons, staff and Board members of the Model Niland and invited guests from the business and arts worlds of Sligo.

The Model hopes to raise €1.5million toward this dynamic redevelopment through the new campaigns outlined above and the work of the fundraising board. If you want to find out more, or would like to contribute to the redevelopment for Sligo contact Caroline Clancy on 071-914 1405 or via email to

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