Going from strength to strength - Void leads on visual arts legacy

Some of the staff and volunteers who work at the Void Art Gallery, Patrick Street. DER4313JM012
Some of the staff and volunteers who work at the Void Art Gallery, Patrick Street. DER4313JM012

Derry has made history this year as the first ever UK City of Culture - and Void have embraced every opportunity.

Indeed, this local arts organisation have gone from strength to strength throughout 2013, growing both numbers and vision.

With the prestigious Turner Prize now opened in Ebrington, the city’s visual arts have become the talk of the town.

Over the past year Void has played a major role in promoting visual arts across the city and creating an infrastructure to ensure the legacy of visual arts in the city goes from strength to strength in 2014 and beyond.

As well as being an artist-led space, Void is non-profit with core funding provided by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Derry City Council and other sources. The success of 2013 has seen a surge in the number of staff and volunteers - Void now has a staff of eleven and around twenty volunteers, whereas prior to the City of Culture this was a core staff of five.

Prior to the City of Culture accolade, Void consisted of two gallery spaces. However, in 2013 the organisation took on management of the City Factory Gallery complex which is currently hosting the acclaimed Wille Doherty’s ‘Unseen’ retrospective and had the popular Shirt Factory Project by Rita Duffy. This is, of course, alongside their blockbuster 2013 programme which saw their exhibition programme double in size.

So in reality Void has tripled its capacity - providing new jobs and opportunities for those looking to work in visual arts and cultural programming.

Speaking of the successes that 2013 has brought, Maolíosa Boyle, Manager of Void, told the ‘Journal’: “2013 has been a triumph of a year for Void as we have grown in capacity, skills and size whilst delivering a incredible programme showcasing the best of international contemporary art practice. We have brought renowned artists such as Candice Breitz, Mark Wallinger and Santiago Sierra to the city and have commissioned new works that directly engage with Derry and its people.

But that’s not all that Void has done this year, as Maoliosa elaborates: “Throughout 2013 Void stepped outside of the gallery space and challenged perceptions of the role of visual art through commissioning artists to create gardens around the city, creating massive critical conversations on the streets and airwaves about what constitutes visual art. Void have also collaborated with Resonance FM, broadcasting stories and sounds of the city over an eight week residency that went live to Derry and London everyday.

“Void’s programme has highlighted the strength of the visual arts offer in the city and put contemporary art to the forefront of cultural conversation. Myself and Void working within the Turner Prize has also left a legacy for the city as was intended by Tate and Culture Company. Myself and many of our volunteers and invigilators have made contacts and learned new skills that will have a long lasting legacy that will be kept within the city. Void as an organisation has been managing the City Factory space since it opened in May.

“We have grown from a staff of four to twelve and gained new skills and capacities from our new team members making us a stronger organisation with an exciting vision. Void has plans to develop and expand in the near future continuing to deliver a programme of excellence that creates important discussions around what is happening in contemporary art right now,” she added.

So an impressive list of achievements marks Void’s contribution to visual arts in the city during 2013. Most notable is the fact that the organisation tripled in staff, with eight new positions being created as a direct result of the City of Culture activity.

Void’s Communications Officer, Emer Grant, highlights the publicity boost since Derry began its tenure as City of Culture.

“Void have seen dramatic increases in audiences and visitors to the gallery and media attention attracting thousands of pounds worth of international, national and local press coverage, television interviews and radio interest in the gallery.

“BBC, ITV, RTE, The Guardian, Independent, Art Monthly, Irish Times, Wall Street Journal, Aesthetica, AN Reviews, Conde Naste Traveller, Cara Magazine and the National Geographic, amongst others, have all visited Void in 2013,” she added.

For more on Void, see: www.derryvoid.com