VAWF, Project Arts Centre, Dublin

9 May 2014

Project Arts Centre is proud to present the third gathering of the Visual Arts Workers Forum. Designed to engage and give a platform for debate for workers across the visual arts – artists, writers, curators, educators, funders, gallerists, shippers and framers to name a few – VAWF is a day packed full of stimulating debate, presentations and networking.

Key issues for the 2014 forum include a session devoted to the case for artistic leadership, a session aimed at accounting for the visual arts’ contribution – artistically, structurally and economically – and a session analysing good governance.

The third Visual Arts Workers Forum will take place at Project Arts Centre, Dublin on 9 May 2014.

Tessa Giblin (Curator of Visual Arts, Project Arts Centre) will introduce the forum as a platform of debate for workers across the visual arts, invite participation and provocation throughout the day, as well as sowing the seeds of potential for any organisation that may want to take on and host the 2015 VAWF.

This session will focus on artistic people as leaders: artists, curators, writers who make the transition into high-level management and the vision this can offer the cultural sector. Robert Storr’s 2007 Frieze article Positions Vacant is a background spectre to this session, in which he remarks on the-then large number of top museum jobs sitting unfilled in American museums:

“…The museum director’s job has become so focused on fundraising and management minutiae that [potential candidates] have experienced or fear a quantum loss in their engagement with art and an ever-diminishing sense of cultural purpose, factors that initially drove the pioneering directors of modern art museums and sustained them when they grappled with the financial, administrative and political challenges of building institutions or holding them together…. With dismay I came across a recent interview in which someone … inexplicably said, ‘administrators and curators need information: they don’t always need vision’. Wrong. The ‘vision thing’ determines the value accorded information, the kinds of art presented to the public and the manner of its presentation. What ails the art world is that some who seek power have never had a vision and some who have power have lost [their vision]. If there is room at the top, it is for insight, ideas and conviction; we have as many technicians of culture as the industry will ever need, and if some decline promotion, they are doing us and themselves a favour.”

This session is focused on artistic people as leaders across the sector, not limited to a debate about Museums. The breadth of speakers is hoping to re-energise belief in the vision and unique contribution that artistic people can make to the leadership of galleries, art schools, newspapers, artist-run spaces, funding bodies, arts festivals and more.

Speakers will be offering various perspectives on the topic, ranging from an historical overview of the role of artists in the foundation of the National Gallery and those who served as Director by Donal Maguire, to the perspectives and experiences of three cultural leaders whose formations were in artistic and curatorial practice and whose leadership vision has been borne out of these roots: Mike Fitzpatrick, Anna O’Sullivan and Roise Goan.

2014 Visual Arts Workers Forum took place at Project Arts Centre, Dublin.

More than ever the arts, and as part of it the visual arts, are being interrogated for their contribution to civil society, cultural and entrepreneurial prosperity, and to the engine of the economy. This panel aims to bring together diverse aspects of that contribution, and to fuel a debate about how we can better equip ourselves to recognise the breadth of the contribution that is being made. Dr. Clare McAndrew will speak on the broader financial studies conducted in the UK and how we might consider the implications of the funding vs revenue argument, Garrett Phelan will address the intrinsic cultural and artistic value of the arts, Una Carmody will remind us of her research into arts audiences and the audiences reach of artistic practices, while Francis Halsall will reflect on the plight of graduates who are emerging into a changing and reactive cultural landscape.

From left to right: Francis Halsall, Garrett Phelan, Dr. Clare McAndrew.

With the unique perspective of an insider outsider, Annie Fletcher has promised to tackle some strengths and hard truths in her keynote address. A formidable curator, Annie Fletcher has traversed a variety of cultures and cultural systems in her work from the Van Abbe Museum in the Netherlands, through various traveling museum exhibitions, Biennale platforms and production models, as well as having her roots and formation in Ireland’s cultural institutions.

Arts organisations can foster mutual benefits between different groups and different people. And consequently, the governance of arts organisations needs to be informed, fair and careful. All parties must understand their rights and obligations. But what does good governance look like? Where can memberships, staff, executives and board members receive guidance and support? And how can organisations avoid falling into conflict and instability?

Participants in this discussion will address various aspects of this thorny and important issue, from case studies to more general attitudes and practices, including Dónall Curtin (Byrne Curtin Kelly), Martin O’Sullivan (Finance Director, the Arts Council), Barbara Dawson (Director, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane) and Eve-Anne Cullinan (Executive Director, MCO Projects), chaired by independent curator, Vaari Claffey.

The Visual Arts Workers Forum of 2014 will culminate in an audience-driven debate called, appropriately, Prime Time. Se├ín O Sullivan will be collecting questions from audience participants throughout the day, conducting us through an open debate through and from the audience and forum participants.

Tickets available online at, in person from Project Arts Centre box office, or by calling +353 1 881 9613.

Tickets are €10 for independent practitioners and €20 for those institutionally affiliated. Proceeds from ticket sales help to fund independent speakers’ participation. Tickets also include lunch!

For any further queries, get in touch with us: