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Introduction

VISUAL is an iconic multi-disciplinary arts centre in the heart of Carlow Town, with four world class gallery spaces and a 335-seat performance space.

VISUAL’s mission is to create a space for audiences, artists and communities to engage with, explore and be inspired by contemporary art and performance, and to work innovatively and collaboratively to contribute to the long term cultural, social and economic development of the region.

Our programming is informed by the following tenets:

  • We are rooted locally but retain a national and international focus
  • Our location and high specification facility offers a unique and exciting platform to engage with the audiences and artistic community within the region, and to widen engagement with practitioners and audiences from beyond the region.
  • We passionately believe that the arts have a vital role to play in the cultural, social and economic development of the region, and that access to meaningful engagement with the arts can foster the development of self-esteem, well-being, self-expression, social inclusion, creativity and enterprise, both in individuals and in societies.
  • We are committed to providing meaningful access to and advocacy for, contemporary artistic practice of the highest quality, through our programming, events and activities. In addition, we are committed to developing the sustainability of artistic practice both locally and nationally though the ways in which we work and programme.
  • We are committed to identifying and removing physical, social and economic barriers to accessing our work and to support, foster and provide opportunities for arts participation in our community.

How do we programme?
VISUAL places engagement at the heart of programming and strives to programme in a manner that builds relevance and active participation through thematic and cross-disciplinary approaches. Annual exhibition plans are put in place up to two years in advance. The main planning occurs 12-18 months in advance. The programme is developed by the Programming Team, reporting to the Board of Directors. The Programming Team is comprised of the CEO and the Galleries Coordinator and Curatorial Assistant. The proposed programme is presented to the Board of VISUAL annually, and reports, metrics and evaluations regarding the exhibitions and events are presented regularly. 

Programming decisions are based on the artistic quality/merit of the work, relevance to the region, the potential to develop enriching partnerships, engagement and participation, the capacity to work thematically with other activities and exhibitions in the season and the capacity to be feasibly produced within current resources. 

Whilst VISUAL does not solicit proposals for exhibitions, we welcome artists and curators to inform us of their artistic practice and upcoming events and exhibitions by email at galleries@visualcarlow.ie or by post.

History

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 €3.17 million 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 cultural sectors.

To provide a lead in to the opening of VISUAL, Carlow County Council Arts Office 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, to develop familiarity and confidence in the range of practices within the visual arts and allow a process of imagining how an arts centre might enhance the town and region. The quality and vision of these projects and exhibitions set the standards for future programming.