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<nettime-ann> [ann] Closure of Belfast Art Gallery
ned rossiter on Sat, 4 Mar 2006 18:29:57 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime-ann> [ann] Closure of Belfast Art Gallery


[via d.jewesbury {AT} ulster.ac.uk]

The Arts Council at a hastily convened meeting on 13th February informed
the Chair of Ormeau Baths Gallery (http://www.obgonline.net) that the
Council would be withdrawing funding from the Gallery with immediate

Ormeau Baths Gallery is the most significant venue for visual arts in
Northern Ireland and is one of the largest specialising in contemporary
visual arts in Ireland. In the 10 years since it was established OBG has
raised the profile of Northern Irish visual art practice both at home and
abroad, and has presented the work of major international artists to
audiences in Northern Ireland. Its closure will have a significant effect
on the arts community in Northern Ireland as well as the image of Northern
Ireland internationally.

This extreme step is the culmination of a series of actions taken by the
Arts Council which date back to the Board of Ormeau Baths Gallery's
decision in December 2003 to withdraw from the Arts Council's proposed
City Centre Arts Centre to be sited at Talbot Street. OBG's decision was
made after careful consideration and taken in the best interests of the
visual arts sector.

It is indicative of the way that the Arts Council conducts business that
our decision prompted a senior member of the Arts Council executive, to
instruct staff to "make life difficult" for Ormeau Baths Gallery.  Ormeau
Baths Gallery unwittingly presented the Arts Council with an opportunity
when a number of administrative and procedural errors were identified in
our draw down of Lottery funding, a situation which is not uncommon among
comparable arts organisations but one which led the Arts Council to take
prolonged and disproportionate action against Ormeau Baths Gallery.

During the last two years Ormeau Baths Gallery have put in place
stringent financial control mechanisms and have been reporting monthly to
the Arts Council who have been releasing grant income on a monthly basis.

Ormeau Baths Gallery has co-operated with the Arts Council throughout
this process, in order to build confidence and re-establish a
constructive working relation between the two organisations.  The
executive of the Arts Council have however continued to undermine the
Board and management of Ormeau Baths Gallery and have sought to create an
impression to its own Council that Ormeau Baths Gallery was a cause for
ongoing concern.

The Arts Council in a letter from the Chief Executive dated 9th September
2005 sought further reassurances and requested that a "complete
restructuring of the Board and staff restructuring" be carried out. The
Board of Ormeau Baths Gallery accepted this proposal and was in the
process of implementing this request when the decision was made to
withdraw funding.

The Arts Council have cited non-compliance to this request as the reason
for withdrawing funding, and make reference to a letter from the Director
of Ormeau Baths Gallery detailing a timetable for implementation.  Ormeau
Baths Gallery, having changed its Memorandum and Articles of Association,
was about to place a series of public advertisements to call for new Board
members, a process which would be conducted by an external recruitment
agency.  The letter indicated that when in place this new Board would
appraise management and staffing structures and institute necessary
changes by November/December 2006.

It appears that the Arts Council could not accept the logical chronology
of this approach.  The Arts Council did not impress upon the Board of OBG
that this would result in the withdrawing of all funding but instead were
unavailable for discussion, despite repeated efforts to contact them to
progress the recruitment process.
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