Drawing on public spaces

When controversy erupted within Limerick County Council over the allocation of €110,000 towards roadside art on the M7 and N7, it reopened the discussions (that never really go away) about the value of art. Obviously exacerbated by the current economic climate, these debates also existed in the good times. Even when €110,000 wouldn’t have bought you a badly-built apartment, spending on art has always required extra justification.

Hidden from view, unless you choose to seek it out, art in galleries and museums tends to attract less comment and criticism than the art that sits out on our streets and lines our roadways. The Limerick commissions, as with most public art on major roads, are under the Percent for Art scheme, whereby up to 1 per cent of the cost of capital projects undertaken by public bodies is set aside for art works.

The scheme has existed under various guises for 30 years and has resulted in projects that range from the loathed to the beloved, and from the mundane to those that stretch the boundaries of what art might be.

Monica Corcoran of the Arts Council says that “linked as it is to capital projects, the actual budget for the art generally pales in comparison to the amount that is being spent on construction . . .”

The Irish Times