Festival puts its stamp on An Post space

Paul Fahy and Adam Fitzsimons

Lifestyle – Transforming unused buildings into temporary art galleries is a skill Galway International Arts Festival has honed through the years out of necessity. In a city which still has no municipal gallery, Paul Fahy and Adam Fitzsimons tell JUDY MURPHY what’s involved and call for a permanent space.

Biscuits, cakes, a kettle and discarded coffee cups lie scattered on a crowded table located just inside the door of a long-abandoned space in the heart of Galway City that’s owned by An Post.

On another nearby table, tins of Dulux undercoat and trade-quality gloss paints sit alongside boxes of screws and an electric drill in what was once the plant and servicing garage for the State-owned postal service.

A couple of feet away, up on a cherry-picker, a man is carefully painting around the edges of large glass panelled doors. These impressive industrial-style folding doors, sourced from a long-closed garage in Dublin are getting a new lease of life. They will become the entrance to Galway International Arts Festival’s main art gallery for 2019 when this revitalised building officially opens on Sunday.

Located down a narrow laneway between Matt O’Flaherty Chemist and Premoli Shoes, the massive building yields none of its secrets when viewed from the street outside.

It’s massive, and it is unused. Owned by the Post Office – and also accessible by the laneway at the side of the GPO, it previously served as plant and servicing room for the nearby telephone exchange until rapidly changing technology made that service redundant.

Before that, at the turn of the 20th Century, it was a privately-owned garage – the first Ford garage in Ireland, according to the Arts Festival’s Artistic Director, Paul Fahy. And, adds Festival Production Manager Adam Fitzsimons, it also served as a theatre space and cinema as well as an ice-rink at different times.

Just two months ago, this once-busy space was run-down and semi-abandoned. The site might have been valuable but the dark and dreary space wouldn’t have inspired confidence in most people.

However, Paul Fahy, Adam Fitzsimons aren’t most people. When they first walked in here in April, with the blessing of the local Post Master Pat Dillane, they knew immediately that they’d struck gold.

At that time, the Arts Festival still had no gallery capable of housing its main exhibition for 2019, In the Flesh by renowned Australian sculptor Sam Jinks. This was the solution.

Every year, in a city renowned for its arts and creativity, the Arts Festival faces the same challenge because Galway still has no municipal gallery.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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