Friday, April 07, 2006

Letter to Arts Council from Ben Borthwick, Curator, London

I question how the decision to close Ormeau Baths, the most important contemporary art space in Northern Ireland that has single handedly transformed the perception of the visual arts in Northern Ireland both domestically and internationally, sits with ACNI’s Visual Arts Funding Policy which states that the Council:

“wishes to see Northern Ireland develop as a centre of excellence for the production, presentation and critical analysis of contemporary visual arts. It encourages quality, innovation and experimentation to develop a culture in which visual art is respected and valued”

I hope you reconsider this decision.

Ben Borthwick

Questions to Arts Council from Siún Hanrahan.


1. The Arts Council say they “agreed to help OBG to wind down its
affairs in an orderly, business-like manner”. Is it orderly and
business-like to give two days’ notice to the four permanent members of
staff, and not even leave time to take down the current exhibition?

2. The Arts Council say there were financial irregularities at the
Ormeau Baths Gallery. Why then did a forensic audit, called by the Arts
Council, clear it of any wrongdoing?

3. The Arts Council say they are “actively exploring options with
potential partners in the visual arts sector and are confident that the
gallery space will re-open”. Given the alienation of the arts sector as
a result of this sudden closure how can this confidence be justified?

4. Given the Arts Council’s advocacy of an “arm’s length” policy
towards their clients, why have they continuously interfered in the
day-to day running of the gallery over a two-year period?

5. The Arts Council has declared a number of reasons for the closure of
the gallery including unsustainability and loss of confidence in the
management. What evidence is there for any of these claims?

6. The Arts Council says they are “saddened by the decision of the
Chair of the Ormeau Baths Gallery to announce the closure of the
Gallery”. How can they claim to be “saddened” when their own withdrawal
of funding forced the Gallery’s closure?

Siún Hanrahan.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

ACNI's statement on governance and accountability

Monday, April 03, 2006

Letter to Arts Council from Betty Newman-Maguire MFA, Artist and Lecturer..

I am outraged at the way the Arts Council of Northern have caused the closure of one of the most successful galleries in Europe by withdrawing the necessary funding for it to function. The very way in which they did it, when a show to celebrate 25 years of the Master of Fine Arts exhibition was open to the public, is in itself beyond belief. Why would an arts council do such a thing? Where is their vision? These questions I ask as a practising artist who had respect for the Arts Council before they made this unbelievable decision. How did they expect the gallery to function? The Director and staff had no alternative but to close the doors when funding was withdrawn. The Director and staff are professional people who have established this fine gallery firmly on the map in Europe and further afield. Local, National and International Artists have used this gallery to show works to the Belfast audiences who need to see the development in art, especially living through the political climate in Northern Ireland. Why, I ask again, did the Arts Council of Northern Ireland not work harder to keep this gallery open by providing the necessary funding needed to keep this wonderful gallery open?

I urge the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to re-visit their decision and to find a way this decision can be rescinded and funding restored so that Belfast can be proud of its Ormeau Baths Gallery.

Betty Newman-Maguire MFA.

Practising Artist and Lecturer.