Declan McGonagle, one of the most influential figures to emerge from the Derry arts scene, is the latest recipient of St Columb’s College’s Alumnus Illustrissimus award.
The prestigious honour is awarded to distinguished past pupils and former winners include Nobel laureates John Hume and Seamus Heaney, European Cup winner Martin O’Neill and critically-acclaimed musician Paul Brady.
Professor McGonagle was presented with his award at the annual get-together of the St Columb’s College Past Pupils’ Union at the City Hotel on Friday night last.
At the event, Prof. McGonagle said it was a “tremendous honour” to accept the award.
He said: “I am, of course, very pleased, personally but also for my subject - the Visual Arts - to be celebrated in this way because the Visual Arts can sometimes be seen as the poor cousin of the Performing Arts and of the Literary Arts, as if the visual is only decorative, or extra and optional when it comes to public experience or public investment.
“Yet my whole working life - from the Orchard Gallery in the late 1970s, to the ICA, in London, in the 1980s, to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin in the 1990s, to the University of Ulster and now, to the National College of Art and Design - has been about showing how the Visual Arts and visual literacies can be integral and essential to healthy communities and to society.”
He also paid tribute to his former art teacher at St Columb’s, Rev. Neil McCarron, who, he said, taught the subject “with such conviction that it has stood me in good stead in all the curatorial and academic roles in which I have worked over several decades now.”