Home Arts The Belfast Museum which caters to disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland

The Belfast Museum which caters to disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland

by godlove4241
0 comment

• Find out more about the museums shortlisted for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2023 here

Although only 11 years old, The Mac Belfast quickly became an integral part of the Northern Irish city. Not just because it’s tucked away downtown in a public square, not far from Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art, and has a vibrant program in its two theaters and three galleries. But also because it has created a multitude of initiatives, workshops and events that have benefited some of the most vulnerable communities living nearby.

“No community is too hard to reach,” says MAC Creative Director of Visual Arts, Hugh Mulholland, when I ask him how the museum has had such a big impact. “But these communities have to want to get involved. It’s a bit presumptuous of us to think that we can reach out and offer something that people want.

While acknowledging that bigotry is still widespread in Northern Ireland – the region currently has no government due to a breakdown of power-sharing agreements – MAC’s engagement with communities has more recently focused on minority groups, in particular the LGBTQ+ community and asylum seekers. , says Mulholland, who cites the recent worrying rise in recorded hate crimes in Northern Ireland.

© Janie Airey, Art Fund 2023

To help expand the museum’s reach, three years ago it began working with five “associate partners”. These are charities – Participation and exercise of rights, External, Alliance for Choice, Mental Health Action and the rainbow project – which stands up for marginalized communities in Belfast. When a new exhibit is in the works, curatorial and engagement teams meet with partners to discuss co-curation and workshop opportunities.

“If we really want to speak to the communities outside of this building, we have to recognize that this is not my private foundation,” Mulholland says. “We open it up so that communities can put demands on us. Through Associated Partners, we can address the particular concerns of these individual groups through the work we do. »

For example, during the exhibition of a set of major works by the Northern Irish artist Anne Tallentire, whose practice is often linked to the use of public space, an associated partner, the charitable association Participation and the Practice of Rights, has become an integral part of the program developed around the exhibition. . Entitled Space policy, the support project tackled housing inequality by running several workshops for children, involving families in housing crisis. Participants were asked to examine vacant areas of the city in order to define their ideal housing solutions. This work was then presented to Belfast City Council.

Working in this way, the MAC team noticed a shift in visitor demographics. More recently, an exhibition in the upper gallery, At the table, which included work made by participants with a selection of socially engaged artists, saw an increase in visits from asylum-seeking families. A Syrian woman who ran a kindergarten in her home country got involved with the museum and now hosts a weekly play session in the gallery for asylum-seeking families living in hotel rooms . “We’ve found avenues for people to get involved with our organization,” says Mulholland, “and what I’ve found is that outside of these scheduled activities and workshops, people come back. “

Spending per capita in Northern Ireland is much lower than any other part of these islands

Hugh Mulholland, Creative Director

The £120,000 offered to the winner of the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2023 would allow the MAC to continue this work, while allowing Mulholland to support another demographic group it considers vulnerable. “One of the other groups that needs to be exposed and highlighted are the artists who live here. Spending per capita in Northern Ireland is much lower than in any other part of these islands. It’s hard to choose to be an artist and have a consistent practice anywhere, but it’s especially hard here. For me, it’s about continuing to find creative platforms so that artists based here can understand their work in an international context.

Unsurprisingly, these are the artists Mulholland thinks of first when he imagines winning the award. His team can see their positive impact in real time, but winning the award would be an incredible sign of approval for artists who engage with the MAC. “It would mean that artists know they live and work in a place that contributes to cultural discourse.” For a museum so invested in Belfast, it would indeed be a great reward.

Activists from Participation and the Practice of Rights and the Anaka Women’s Collective at the launch of At the table © Melissa Gordon

How do you bring your local community into the museum?

Hugh Mulholland: Our recent exhibition At the table spoke about the CMA’s approach to inclusion – it addressed some of the most pressing issues in our society and our communities by making changes for themselves. He took the quote from American politician Shirley Chisholm as a starting point: “If they won’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. It’s painted on the wall. Artist Khaled Barakeh invited 25 participants from our associated partners to sit across from 25 local government decision makers to engage on asylum issues. We cannot claim to bring about societal change, but we can support groups that can inform those in power by providing a platform for their activism.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

@2022 – All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by artworlddaily