Model Niland to springboard new cultural centre

An article in The Sligo Champion last week reported on Director/Curator Seamus Kealy’s recent meeting with the Sligo Borough Council.

The redevelopment of the Model Arts and Niland Gallery was the springboard for the new planned cultural quarter and urgently needed civic centre for Sligo, the Director/ Curator, Seamus Kealy has said.

In outlining the exciting plans for the future of the Model at a meeting of the Borough Council, Mr. Kealy declared that Sligo was soon to become a leading region for arts and culture in Ireland with the reopening of the Model Niland next year.”The future model will be a world class cultural centre with an unparalleled visitor experience,” he said in appealing to the Borough Council for support.

The Model Niland had been the central place in the region where art and culture were nourished and presented inclusively to the people, Mr. Kealy stated. It was also where people gathered to reflect and share experiences. Model programmes had brought in growing audiences – doubled numbers over a few years in fact – and had brought visitors from around the world, the Director/ Curator outlined.

“The Model Niland is the cultural beacon of this region and one of the most dynamic organisations across the country. It is now time for a change for the Model Niland,” he said

“It should also be remembered that the Model Niland Gallery is the home for the Niland collection. Until now, the collection has not quite had proper storage or climactic conditions for its upkeep. Given the collection’s history, its vitality and importance to the region and nation, where we are only beginning to explore the enormous significance of the collection’s impact, we must consider that its existence is a major reason for an expanding gallery. Tremendous work has been done to catalogue, repair and care for the collection,” Mr. Kealy told Councillors.

While the collection was valued at €10 million, its value was inexpressible when it was on display or on tour and people from across the globe came to Sligo to see it. Elsewhere, from the point of view of the urban fabric, Sligo currently lacked a central hub or heart, Mr. Kealy continued.

” The planned cultural quarter for Sligo may take a little bit more time than originally planned, but the Model and its redevelopment are the springboard for this new, urgently needed civic centre. Once the centre of the town is in place, so much of what has ailed Sligo – the perception that there is no green space or gathering area for the public – will be addressed. The Model aims to be central to this new city centre of Sligo. The new Model and its future are immersed in an inclusive vision for the community and its wellbeing, and we shall see the benefits through generations to come,”

The Director/ Curator also spoke of the tremendous fundraising going on to ensure the redevelopment happened in a timely fashion. He cited the efforts of the Future Model Development Board and recalled the immense work that Vincent Ferguson had done for art and culture in the region. Vincent had chaired this Board up to his death and Martin Reilly had now stepped up to the challenge with a team of Claire Ronan, Damien Tansey, and new members, Brian Byrne, Marc MacSharry and Barry Creed, who are now hard at work to ensure that private funds that support the public funds were raised for the Model’s redevelopment.

Through their efforts, a creative action plan that suits the times is being put into place and the commitment by these individuals was complemented by the Model’s efforts to raise funds through the Buy a Seat and Support the Build programmes, which had already produced results.

– Michael Moran, The Sligo Champion, 12 Nov 2008