13 October 2011: Minister Deenihan launches Arts Council Archive Stories

Stories about work undertaken during the early years of the Arts Council, were published and launched today (13 October 2011) online by the Council at an event attended by Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Council's new archive stories website, is an initiative marking the 60th anniversary of the Arts Council which was established on 4 December 1951 under the Arts Act, 1951.

Minister Deenihan who viewed the site this afternoon at the Arts Council's premises noted that it was a former Fine Gael Taoiseach, Mr John A Costello SC TD who introduced the Arts Bill which brought in the Arts Act in 1951 (that established the Arts Council). In the Seanad debate on the Bill in May 1951, Taoiseach John A Costello said: "It is a matter of great gratification that we have, in this period of strife and stress, such a unanimous and, I may say, enthusiastic support for a Bill dealing with matters of the spirit, the fine arts. [...] For me, it is the fulfillment of a personal ambition going back over many years."

Minister Deenihan said that Taoiseach John A Costello was; "A man of vision," and that today, "the arts and the work funded and supported by the Arts Council, continues to enrich the lives of people in communities across the country." The Minister also said that:"The grant-in-aid the Arts Council receives from Government is an investment in Irish society and in the Irish economy that is repaid many times over through the income it generates and the culture and society it helps to build."

The website story project draws on the Arts Council's archive which is located in its office at 70 Merrion Square in Dublin.
The Arts Council, from its large archive of documentation, has selected a small proportion of its records and the website commences with a first phase of 14 stories from the 1950s. The stories are primarily told by presenting digital copies of documents from the Council’s archive including letters, minutes and photographs. The stories from the 1950s include records that document efforts by the Arts Council to support Ireland’s participation at the Venice Biennale in 1958; subsidise the building of halls in rural areas in 1954, tour paintings in 1955 throughout the country with the Haverty Trust and the difficulties (also in 1955), that prominent visual artists like George Campbell and Gerard Dillon had in making a living from their work.  The first meetings of the Arts Council are also presented including attendance in January 1952 by Mr John A Costello SC TD at a Council meeting with the then Taoiseach, Mr Eamon de Valera TD.

Future phases of the site will aim to look at the 1960s and the 1970s. The website is a sub-site of the Council's main website and is accessible via www.artscouncil.ie or directly at www.archivestories.artscouncil.ie

Launching the first phase of the archive stories website, Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said: "A state agency like the Arts Council is a custodian of a collective memory and its own archive is an important cultural information resource. Responding to the challenges of the digital age, the Council has taken the opportunity to make its archive as accessible as is possible to a wider range of people. I congratulate the Council on this 60th anniversary project.  I am sure the availability of stories from this phase and future phases will strengthen and reinforce the network of archive provision in Ireland."

Pat Moylan, Chairman of the Arts Council said: "Our archive holds the stories of our past and therefore plays a role in building understanding and learning for our future.  We hope that in time the site will add to our rich store of tales about the lives of artists and writers and that we will spot patterns and cycles in the history of cultural policy and arts policy in Ireland and learn from these."

Orlaith McBride, Director of the Arts Council said: "The archive constitutes the historical records of the Arts Council. As a primary source of information the story material aims to offer an insight in to the workings of the organisation and its dealings with arts organisations, individual artists, the general public, public bodies and government departments of the day. We hope that the site will appeal to both scholars and general public alike."

Desert Rose, (oil on board) - Colin Middleton, 1975, Arts Council Virtual Gallery.
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Desert Rose, (oil on board) - Colin Middleton, 1975, Arts Council Virtual Gallery.

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