VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art & The George Bernard Shaw Theatre is a dynamic multi-disciplinary arts facility presenting the best of local, national, and international work in the visual and performing arts.
Standing in a strategic location in the centre of Carlow Town in the grounds of Carlow College, it rivals its contemporaries in New York, Berlin or Tokyo in terms of its scale and contemporary architecture.
VISUAL boasts an area of 3,130m², comprising four principle gallery spaces, a 290 seat performing arts theatre, a restaurant, bar, space for a book shop and a second space for a craft shop.
The four principle gallery spaces are clean ‘white cubes’, with the exception of the Link Gallery which provides a more relaxed and informal environment. The floors in all the gallery and public areas are finished with a polished concrete allowing for the most modest and non-intrusive appearance in the context of exhibitions or floor sculptures. It is also extremely hardwearing, maintenance free and has infinite loading.
Carlow Arts Centre has been in development since the late 1990’s when the Carlow Local Authorities responded to local interest and confidence in the visual and performing arts and the desire to build an arts centre for the town. This €18 million development is a joint project of the Carlow Local Authorities, made possible through the allocation of funding by the local authorities and a grant of €3.17million by the Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism under the ACCESS Programme.
A site was generously donated by Carlow College so that the centre would be strategically located in the town centre. An international architectural competition was held by the RIAI for the design of the centre, for which there were over 100 expressions of interest, with the final award of contract being given to Terry Pawson, a British architect with vast experience in designing buildings for the arts and culture sectors.
Since then, the Arts Office in the Council began an annual programme of visual arts projects under the heading VISUALISE, in the form of exhibitions, longer-term projects with the community and temporary public art events. The idea behind these projects was to provide a lead in to the opening of VISUAL, to create even more familiarity and confidence in the range of practices within the visual arts and to allow a process of imagining how an arts centre might enhance the town and region. These projects have continued and will continue as part of VISUAL’S annual programme of visual arts exhibitions.