Kerry County Council was one of two local authorities to appoint an Arts Officer in 1985. 1989 saw the first full time appointment, followed by another Arts Officer in 1990, 1993, 1995 and 1997. The present Arts Officer was appointed in August 1999. The role of the Arts Officer was broadly seen to be to ‘promote the arts in Kerry’, with regard to national legalisation (Arts Act 1973, 2003).
The Arts Act 2003 provides:
‘An act to promote the development of and participation in the arts’
‘A Local Authority shall…prepare and implement plans for the development of the arts in its functional area…’
‘Stimulating public interest in the arts, promoting knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts’ and ‘improving standards on the arts’.
The Arts Officer works to deliver on Local Authority corporate objectives, guided by National Legislation.
In addition the Arts Office provides policy development, advocacy at local and national level, information services, advice, mentoring and direct arts programming. Whilst the Arts Office compliments the work of established arts organisations in the County, it retains a central role in leading and supporting sustainable development of the arts throughout Kerry.
A brief snapshot of the Arts Officer’s daily work, is as follows:
• Advice and information - The Arts Office provides information and contacts for artists and the wider community. This varies broadly from information regarding commissions, exhibitions, performances, opportunities to grants and projects.
• Support and guidance – to both the arts community and the wider community to assist with arts development.
• Financial assistance - Arts Act Grants are administered and assessed by the Arts Office. Revenue Funding, Individual Artist Bursaries and Awards as well as an ‘Artists in Schools’ Scheme are allocated.
• Promotion - the Arts Office assists with promotion of events and activities, via circulation of mail shots (for all arts events and activity in the County), a published booklet that carries information on forthcoming arts activity. There are also arts and culture web pages www.kerrycoco.ie ‘arts and culture’ and a website to promote Kerry as a location for film www.kerryfilm.ie .all agencies’. ‘The Local Authority Arts Office is in a position to operate throughout the County where possible; working to promote the importance of the arts in our lives, working to offer engagement with the arts directly or indirectly through other organisations, working to raise the arts on all agendas’. Kate recognises the need to ensure the arts are seen as being important in their own right, as well as being of social and cultural value which is part of the Local Authority remit,
Kerry is a County with a wealth of culture; it has a rich and diverse arts sector. Kerry is renowned internationally for its literary tradition, its wealth of music, traditional arts and visual arts. The unsurpassable scenery and living traditions in art have inspired the artistic nature of the people for many generations. The cultural heritage and vibrant residential artists add to the creative atmosphere that exists in Kerry – here the arts form an integral part of everyday life.
The Arts Office of Kerry County Council often acts as a catalyst in the promotion of the arts in Kerry. This entails promoting access to the arts, participation in the arts as well as promoting the profile of the arts. The service often links with dynamic partners; there are a number of events and organisations that platform and develop the arts in Kerry – such as Siamsa Tíre - The National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Samhlaíocht, The Kerry School of Music, Féile na Bealtaine, Listowel Writer’s Week, St. John’s Theatre & Arts Centre, Caherciveen Celtic Music Festival, the Kerry Film Festival, South Kerry Development Partnership, Kerry Education Services, South West Tourism, to name but a few.
This publication provides an insight into much of the Arts Office initiated work, as stated previously; it does not detail the range of work that exists in addition to initiated work. The Arts Office initiated work is often financially supported by the Arts Council.
• Project development and delivery – e.g. arts workshops, residencies, exhibitions, recitals, events etc. - identifying and responding to gaps in provision.
• Access to temporary arts space - the Arts Office facilitates individuals / groups to access space where possible – libraries for arts activity, workshops, talks, exhibitions etc.
• Capital projects – the Local Authority has donated sites (for Siamsa Tíre Theatre & Art Centre, Tralee; Tinteán Theatre, Ballybunion; Kenmare Arts Centre; Caherciveen Arts Centre) for the development of Kerry’s arts infrastructure. Recent ‘one stop shop’ developments have, where appropriate included an arts space and will continue to do so.
• Policy formulation – ongoing consultation with the Strategic Policy Committee, the Arts Advisory Group, the Arts Council, the Arts Festivals Working Group, the Traditional Arts Group and other stakeholders to inform development that responds to real needs.
• Percent for Art – Kerry County Council has been a leader in this field, the Percent for Art commissions include sculptural work, paintings, films, plays, dance and music. The Arts Office administers the Percent for Art commissions within the Local Authority, and works with consultants’ contracted to administer certain schemes. This is done in partnership with the commissioning sections. Commissioning good quality artwork, across art forms is the focus of this process.
• Advocacy - the Arts Office works to raise the collective awareness of the value and impact of the arts throughout the organisation and in the wider community, locally, nationally and internationally.
The arts service is based on the understanding that the right to access the arts is as inherent as is the right to roads, housing, water services etc. Access to arts is important for creative, social and cultural development of both people and the County.
(Kerry Arts Plan 2007-2012).
‘There are core values that guide how we do our work; leadership, social inclusion and partnership, fairness and equity are central to all services provided’.
(Corporate Plan 2005-2009).