The Arts Council's Chairman Pat Moylan has led tributes on behalf of the members and staff to outgoing Director Mary Cloake as she leaves the Arts Council today (31 August 2011) after seven years as its most senior officer.
Mary Cloake joined the Arts Council as Regions Officer in 1993, was appointed Development Director in 1997 and Director in 2004. Her time at the Arts Council is marked by a number of key achievements.
Her long-standing and tenacious commitment to local arts and regional arts development has been evident throughout her time in the Arts Council. The period has seen the number of arts centres and venues grow from 15 to 50 and the number of local authority arts officers from seven to 34. 2008 marked the completion of this network, with each local authority in Ireland having at least one professional arts officer.
As Development Director, Mary introduced an audience development programme for the first time and that commitment to extending the reach of the arts has continued, with the innovative Touring Experiment (2006-2008), which re-animated the Council's support to touring across all art-forms. Together with its successor programmes it has delivered 1,200 exhibitions and touring performances over the past five years. Arts Audiences, a programme to support arts organisations in reaching their audiences, and to help both increase their income and extend the reach of their work, was introduced in 2008.
Partnerships and joint working have been a hallmark of Mary's tenure as Director, with successful joint initiatives across a range of Government agencies and bodies in fields such as broadcasting, education, health, tourism and justice.
She guided the Arts Council's funding of arts organisations in a period of rapid growth in funds and then introduced a policy-led plan to support the Council in its funding decisions through the recent period of public spending reductions. Mary commissioned two landmark studies, The Public and the Arts (2006) and The Living and Working Conditions of Artists (2010).
Mary pioneered operational improvements in the Arts Council, reducing administrative expenditure, improving processes and introducing an award-winning online grant management system.
During her time as Director her commitment to effective advocacy and facilitating and supporting the arts community in making the case for the arts, has seen the arts become central to the national agenda and an important plank in economic recovery and social renewal.
Speaking today, Pat Moylan, Chairman of the Arts Council said: "Mary's passionate and personal commitment to the arts is widely acknowledged. Her empathy with artists and her deep understanding of the arts has been a real asset for us all. We wish her every success both personally and professionally in the future."