Irish Art Organizations
History, Functions, Funding, Membership.

Irish Art Organizations

The support infrastructure for visual arts in Ireland is multi-layered and designed to support Irish culture in a variety of ways. The lead role is played by the Irish government's Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, whose over-arching responsibility is to promote and foster the practice and appreciation of the creative arts. The government's strategy for the visual arts is implemented by two subsidiary organizations: An Chomhairle Ealaíon (the Irish Arts Council), the independent agency which promotes art in Ireland, and Cultúr Na hÉireann (Ireland Culture), the agency that publicises and promotes Irish Art abroad.

All this work involves a number of diverse initiatives, from the maintenance of key cultural heritage sites, like Newgrange; the upkeep and expansion of national museums and cultural centres such as the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland (Ard-Mhúsaem na hÉireann), the National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art; the financial support of Irish artists to attend numerous annual and bi-annual international art exhibitions; the provision of resources for municipal art venues like: the Crawford Art Gallery, the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, the Lavit Gallery and the West Cork Arts Centre (all in Cork); the Limerick City Museum and Gallery of Art, and the Waterford Municipal Art Gallery.

Other Arts Organizations

An Chomhairle Ealaíon regularly disburses grants to other major arts organizations, which in turn use the monies to promote artistic endeavour and appreciation within their individual purview. Arts bodies funded in this manner include: The Royal Irish Academy, the Royal Dublin Society, the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Library at Trinity College Dublin (home to masterpieces like the Book of Kells), as well as publications such as CIRCA and the Irish Arts Review.

Local authorities also promote arts and culture within their areas, through the subsidy and support of local arts venues and cultural centres, incorporating all the creative and performance arts. See also Artlinks, a new multi-county artist support group.

Artist-based groups also benefit. These include Aosdána, the senior body of eminent Irish artists, whose elected members each receive a stipend or annuity called the Cnuas; Visual Artists Ireland (formerly the Sculptor's Society), the Watercolour Society of Ireland, as well as numerous artist groups and collectives like: the Backwater Artists Group, Cork Artists Collective, Cork Printmakers, and the National Sculpture Factory, to name but a tiny few.


Funding strategy for Irish art encompasses grants from the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism (disbursed by An Chomhairle Ealaíon and/or local authorities), public contributions via the National Lottery, and combined public and private funding via schemes such as the Percent For Art.

Arts Education

Training new painters, sculptors, printmakers and designers, as well as new art-teachers, is the responsibility of the Department of Education. Ireland boasts a number of high-class art colleges, including the National College of Art and Design, in Dublin, and the Crawford College of Art and Design, in Cork. In addition, there are a number of art schools in Dublin, Leinster, Connacht, Munster and Ulster.


The €122 million Irish crafts industry is championed by the Crafts Council of Ireland, funded by the department of Enterprise. Examples of county-level bodies who benefit, include the West Cork Craft & Design Guild.

Northern Ireland

The promotion of Irish painting, contemporary culture and Irish sculpture is also a priority in the six counties, where the Northern Ireland Arts Council supports its local Ulster artists through grants, bursaries, and residencies for individual painters and sculptors; support for local and international exhibitions; the expansion of its permanent collection of artworks; the upkeep and expansion of cultural centres like the Ulster Museum and the Royal Ulster Academy of Fine Arts; and the support of artist groups like the Ulster Society of Women Artists and the Ulster Watercolour Society.

To see the rising value of fine art in Ireland, see: The Most Expensive Irish Paintings.

YOUR Reviews of Irish Art Organizations

If you are a practising artist in the area of painting, sculpture or other forms of contemporary art, and have something to say about the effectiveness of art organisations in Ireland, we would like to hear from you. We are looking to commission an article or series of articles on how Irish visual artists are encouraged to maintain world class standards by the various bodies established or supported by the government or its agencies.

• For more about the evolution of arts in Ireland, see: History of Irish Art.
• For more information about arts and crafts in Ireland, see: Homepage.

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