Name Change at The Model

The Model on The Mall has always been a flagship building for Sligo, from its first creation in the 1850’s by architect James H. Owen to its award winning renovation in 1999 by McCullough Mulvin. In many ways, No.22, The Mall, has reflected the changing nature of Sligo itself, from small market town to vibrant gateway city and cultural centre for the North West. This new redevelopment will create a flagship cultural centre for Sligo, the Northwest and indeed Ireland.

The Redevelopment period we’re currently in has given us some much needed time to reflect and plan for our future. Already one of the leading contemporary arts organsations in Ireland we are entering into the next exciting phase in The Model’s development and will emerge into 2010 with a much larger building, much better artist and education spaces and a much improved visitor experience through the creation of new galleries.

As we consider the future of the organisation it became apparent that the current title The Model Arts and Niland Gallery was not always being shortened to “model + niland” as it was originally hoped and so some confusion had arisen around our name with people calling us all manner of variations, the niland, the model, model gallery, niland centre, model arts centre and so on, Very few were calling us the correct name and often one name was not recognised by another person who called it by a different name as being the same organisation. It was clear that some clarity around what we were called was badly needed – we must have one name if we are to cement the reputation of that name.

A decision has been taken, after much research and discussion, to rename the organisation The Model, home of The Niland Collection. We had intended to launch this new name with a new logo in the coming months. Just last week a letter appeared in the Sligo Weekender (and earlier in the Sligo Champion) questioning the change. We welcome the rare opportunity this has given us to discuss the name in more detail and wanted to open up the discussion on our blog. The original letter (appearing in both papers) is below and our Director’s response is below that again. It will appear in next weeks print editions of the papers but we thought it a good time to kick start the discussion as he was held up in his printed reply due to being our of the country at the Venice Biennale when the original letters appeared.

We’d love to hear what you think.


I am realiably informed a move is afoot to remove the name “Niland” from the official title of the Model+Niland the arts centre located on the Mall Sligo in the former Model School building. Evidence of such change is to be seen in the Model + Niland “Information Fact Sheet” on the redevelopment, where the title ” The Model” appears on at least fifteen occasions specifically excluding reference to the Niland connection.

In the late fifties Nora Niland, then Co.Sligo Librarian through her foresight and unbelievable tenacity began to assemble a collection of artworks by renowned artist Jack Yeats and his Contemporaries. She did this, apart from a love of art, because she believed that the legacy of Jack Yeats should be celebrated in Sligo where he himself stated that in every painting he ever did there was a thought of Sligo. This Collection now forms the centerpiece of the Model + Niland and has attracted major public funding for the centre’s development.

The centre was called the The Model + Niland because of its location in the old “Model School” on The Mall and in memory and appreciation of Nora Niland for her work in assembling the original Collection.

Any decision to remove the “Niland” from the title of the art centre is illadvised and compromises the history of the Collection and denigrates the memory of Nora Niland without whom there would be no Yeats Collection in Sligo and subsequently no Model + Niland.

There may be a perception abroad that the “Arts” in Sligo are a recent innovation. Be assured that the roots were well established and Nora Niland and her Contemporaries were well fitted in their time to nurture the green shoots from which we all benefit today. I welcome the ongoing redevelopment at The Mall and look forward to the reopening of The Model + Niland in the near future but cannot support any sidelining of the Niland connection.

Under no circumstances should the surname of Nora Niland be removed from the title of the centre or relegated to some portion of the centre as a sop to her memory.

Ronan MacEvilly,

Cleveragh Road,



Dear Sir

I am responding to the letter to the editor, “Niland name must be retained,’ dated June 9th, 2009. I am grateful that this discussion has arisen so we might clarify the details and reasoning of the new naming of “The Model.” Firstly, it should be made clear that the name “Niland,” referring to the vital legacy of Nora Niland, is not being eliminated from our organisation’s identity. We have created a new identity, which is now “The Model,” but this identity includes another tier; “Home of the Niland Collection.” The separation of the names “Model” and “Niland” from the vague title “Model Niland” makes absolute sense for presenting ourselves as an international institution while retaining our local resonances. Regarding our decision to improve the identity of “The Model”, it should be made clear that we will invoke references to Nora Niland at all times. We are currently developing a “Story of Nora Niland” that will be presented not only on our website, but alongside exhibitions from our collection. The beginnings of this story can be found at

After much consultation with national and local individuals, it was decided to distill the title to “The Model.” For some time, clarity for an official name has been needed. Until recently, multiple names have been used, depending on who one speaks to. The last title, “The Model Arts & Niland Gallery,” was too long and incited confusion around the use of the term “Arts”. The word “Gallery” was also too limiting, in that the institution is more than just a gallery; we are programming film and music events along with exhibitions. This wordy name had often forced people to truncate it, resulting in an inconsistent mishmash of usage. Both Sligo locals and international guests indicated that there is no consistency to the usage of the name, and the conglomeration which uses both “Model” and “Niland” results in a rather unwieldy moniker.

For this reason, it is best to shorten the name into its most concise, memorable and historical relevant form, ending this confusion and cementing our identity consistently. Separating the title into “The Model” and “Home of the Niland Collection” clarifies our image in a few ways:

· “The Model” maintains a reference to the history of the building itself and is already ingrained in many locals’ imaginations. It is the easiest and most common contraction of the full name, and will be easily understood and remembered by an international audience.

· Properly rebranded, “The Niland Collection” emphasises the collection’s integration within the larger institution, actually giving it more prominence, and a warmer relationship with the organization — which is its “Home.”

· Pertinent exhibitions will be clearly denoted as being “from the Niland Collection” or labeled “The Niland Collection presents.” This highlights the diversity of the gallery’s programming and the overlap between its contemporary and historical exhibitions.

· Without any descriptor (gallery, arts centre, museum), “The Model” possesses a modern ambiguity that has been successfully employed by other institutions, such as The Tate, Whitechapel, or Project Dublin.

The Model will retain its relationship to both local and international audiences and histories. Our move to shift our identity is a testament to that.

Seamus Kealy


The Model

Home of the Niland Collection

Cleveragh Road