During the Kilkenny Arts Festival each August, one of the uplifting aspects is the sight of unused premises coming to life for the week, vibrant with exhibitions by working artists. It is this kind of idea that is starting to come to fruition in an initiative by the Kilkenny County Council Arts Office.
The idea behind this ‘Empty Spaces’ initiative is to “activate the temporary use of vacant spaces for arts, cultural and community activity”. The aim is to maintain a vibrant city centre and foster the arts environment for which Kilkenny is so well known.
A local writer has already benefited from the scheme, and the Devious Theatre Company is the latest to receive support in this way, as they prepare to set up an administrative and rehearsal space in The Maltings following on from their six-month Arts Office residency.
“They are an extremely hardworking, competent and ambitious young theatre company who really are going places and consequently need to be nurtured and supported,” said arts officer Mary Butler, who has been “extremely concerned about their pending return to homelessness after the duration of the residency”.
“With the assistance and support of O’Neill Foley, I am delighted to be able to announce that Devious will be moving into the basement of the Maltings,” she said. “Spaces such as these are invaluable and it will enable practitioners to develop and complement greatly the creative industries currently based in Kilkenny, in turn enhancing our reputation.”
The two spaces for creative activity in The Maltings as part of Empty Spaces were facilitated by Tom O’Connor and the Board of Kilkenny Information Age Ltd, Ms Butler noted.
The idea is that empty premises be used by artists on a temporary basis, to help maintain a vibrant urban area and give artists space to develop their work. Existing traders would also benefit from higher footfall on the streets, local pride and a deterrent to vandalism, Ms Butler said. If the space is then rented to a tenant, under the agreement the artist would vacate the premises within an agreed time.
For artists, the initiative aims to give them somewhere to work other than their kitchen or spare room, for example.
“Kilkenny City and County, to my knowledge, has little or no rentable studio space available to artists whatsoever. As a result of this, most artists work within their own homes. They allocate garage space, spare rooms, gardens and even corners of their bedrooms to embark upon and carry out their work,” Ms Butler said.
“These situations have an immense impact upon the work created by artists. The spaces within which one works cannot help but influence, affect and determine the work created. The size, media and style of our artists’ creations are therefore being determined by the restrictions of their ‘studio’ spaces.”